Aggression in Toddlers

It may not seem like it, but aggression in toddlers is a common part of their development. Numerous factors contribute to this aggression like developing language skills, the lack of proper impulse control, and the wish of becoming independent. Their way of releasing emotions driven by these factors is through being aggressive.

Nadine Block, the Center for Effective Discipline executive director, claimed that instances of hitting or biting are normal for children at this age. Although considered as normal, parents should let the aggressive behavior slide. Parents must tell their children that such behavior is not right and to express his emotions through other ways or modes.

Possible Causes of Aggression in Toddlers

Common Causes

Toddlers are in the transitional phase from babyhood. KidsHealth’s Dr. Jennifer Pendley noted on the website that toddlers are beginning to think independently and act on their own. Nevertheless, the skills necessary to do things on their own are still in the learning process. They are still learning how to speak their thoughts, which make them frustrated in communicating with adults since their ideas remain incomprehensible. The problem becomes worse as the child can’t communicate his frustration. Aggression is the last course of action to let everyone know his frustration, anger and fears.

When to Worry

Aggression in toddlers is not only caused by frustration, anger or fear. Several unusual causes can also drive a toddler to present aggressive behavior. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, they may also show signs of numerous disorders that lead to aggression in toddlers such as head trauma sustained during infancy. The same organization also advised parents to ask for professional help if the child tend to be violent against other children, pets or himself.

How to Deal with Aggression in Toddlers

1.      Explain the Consequences

This is a sort of punishment concept for toddler with logical explanation for him to understand his act. An example is throwing balls at other toddlers inside a ball pit. If this happens, get him out of the pit and let him watch the other kids play. The parent should explain that going back is possible if he’s willing to enjoy the pit without the need to be aggressive. There’s no use to reason out to children since he’s not mature enough to understand it. It’s enough for them to understand their acts and their consequences.

2.      Stay Cool and Keep Your Temper

Contrary to popular opinion, hitting or yelling will not help prevent aggression in toddlers. In fact, this will only make the matter worse. As they say, children look up to their parents or adults. Seeing their parents keeping their temper will be a good way to teach them about controlling theirs.

3.      Provide Immediate Consequences

Behavioral management plan is vital if the child shows aggressive behaviors frequently. Controlling aggression in toddlers will benefit from responding to the behavior immediately. Many parents tend to wait for more than one instance of hitting before stopping their children, which is a problem. Parents should let their children know that what they are doing is wrong immediately. Keep the child away from other kids to calm him down. This will bring him back to his senses and understand that the consequence of hitting or being violent to other kids means he will be out of the scene or game.

4.      Be Consistent in Discipline

Preventing the instances of aggression in toddlers should be easy, but the parents’ problem lies in their consistency in controlling their children. Disciplining should be the same each time the child shows aggressive behavior. This will condition the child’s mind about what’s coming to him the moment he displays aggressive behavior. This should be the same if aggressive behavior emerges while in public. Most parents tend to avoid disciplining their children in public due to embarrassment. Nevertheless, parents should not feel embarrassed since other parents in the public may also have kids and had their share of the same issue.

5.      Teach Alternatives

Review what happened with the child once he calmed down. Discuss about the possible reason for his behavior if he can. Parents must explain that being angry is a common reaction on various triggers, but hitting or showing other aggressive behavior is not right.

6.      Reward Good Behavior

Dealing with aggression in toddlers is a two way process. Parents should not only focus on children’s misbehaviors, but also reward him for the things he did well, like not hitting other children and just turning away. Being able to verbalize his reasons for being aggressive also deserve a reward or praise.

7.      Limit Exposure to Violence

Keep children from toys, games or shows that showcase violence. This will only lead to violence or aggression in toddlers due to their ability to trigger their imagination. Nevertheless, parents should understand that being aggressive is a part of human nature. This means that throwing out every item that triggers violence is not the exact solution due to other influences. Parents can only limit exposure, but not completely shut them out of the world.

8.      Promote Activity to the Toddler

Toddlers are very active and energetic. Hence, they need to have an outlet to release this brimming energy in their body. This energy trapped in their body also result to aggression in toddlers. Parents must give them more than enough time to play, especially outdoor activities, to calm their body.

9.      Ensure Downtime

Giving long hours of playtime also means providing enough time to rest or play quietly on his own. This will help imagination stimulation without the need to rely on their parents too much. Any time can be a good scheduled downtime for children, but the most recommended time is around bedtime or nap time.

10.     Break Him from the Trigger

Identify the triggers of aggression in toddlers. Once known, get him away from them and let him sit quietly. Demonstrate the right way of playing and avoid consequences that will keep him from enjoying company or games.

More information on possible causes of aggression in toddlers and how you can deal with this problem: