As a parent of toddlers, you know that it can be difficult to figure out how to manage their behavior sometimes, especially when your toddler is showing aggression. Toddler aggression is very common and can be displayed through hitting, biting, headbutting, pushing, and many other acts like this.
At Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Center, we know that toddler aggression can be hard to deal with and whether you are a new parent or have a few kids but never really knew how to deal with toddler aggression, we want to help! While acts of aggression from your toddler are common, it is not something you should ignore and not address.
In this blog, we are going to talk about why these things might be happening and how to manage these tough toddler behaviors. Learn more and contact us with any questions you may have!
Why It Happens
Toddlers do not have the skills yet to say what they want or to express their feelings. Because of this, they are going to do what they can and what they know to have control over the situation. They are going to try something that worked for them in the past and they may remember that as a baby, they got their needs fulfilled by using their mouth. For example, the crying got them the attention they needed and eating helped them feel better. Because they associate these things with getting their needs met, they may try to use their mouth to get their needs met as a toddler, which is why many kids revert to biting.
When they start biting and get rewarded, whether the reward is getting a toy from another kid, getting their mom’s attention, or getting another kid’s behavior to stop, they will think that this is an effective method of getting what they want. Once they start thinking that biting got them what they wanted, it could stem into hitting, kicking, pushing, and some of those other aggressive behaviors.
Toddler aggression generally occurs because they are trying to get a need met and they don’t have how to verbalize that yet. Another reason why they may be acting out aggressively is that they are mad and don’t know how to get the anger out of their body, so they start hitting or screaming.
While it is all normal behavior for a toddler to show, it is something parents must learn how to manage and help their toddler understand why they shouldn’t be acting like that.
What To Do
As a parent, you really want to address what is happening and your child’s behaviors. A great way to talk about what is happening is to narrate it to your child. Tell your child that you see they are feeling angry or upset and ask them why they bit, hit, kicked, or acted out with aggression.
By trying to understand why they are acting a certain way and addressing that with them and talking them through it, you can help them break it down so they understand their own feelings. Then you can help them find a better solution for how they can get their needs met or how they can express themselves.
Try to redirect them and tell them why it isn’t okay to bite or hit. Social stories are a great way to help explain these things to your child and help them to navigate this issue. Read our blog about social stories to learn more! Let your child know that it’s not okay to act out aggressively but give them other options. While your child may not be at the point of being able to form full sentences or verbally express what they need, you can introduce some sign language to help them be able to tell you what they need.
As a parent, it is easy to tell your child what they can’t do and tell them no when they do something wrong, but forget to tell them what they can do instead. This makes it hard for your toddler to know how to act or behave when they want or need something. When it comes to redirection, remember that you are replacing a negative with a positive. This is what teaches them what behaviors are okay.
When To Redirect
It may seem like the obvious answer is to try to redirect your child and teach them right after they act out with aggression, but this may not be effective. When your child is mad, sad, or whatever emotion they are feeling that caused them to bite or hit, their cortisol levels are high leading up to and right after the incident. It is best to wait until they have calmed down a bit before you can use it as a teachable moment.
If you see something that might upset your toddler and lead to an act of aggression, you can try to catch them before they get too angry and help them work through their emotions in a better way, but once they start hitting or kicking or screaming, wait until they calm down to talk about how they could have better reacted.
It’s Okay To Ignore
While we mentioned before that these behaviors need to be addressed in order to help your child learn not to do them, it is okay to ignore these behaviors sometimes. If they are biting you and trying to get your attention while you are working or on the phone, you can simply put them somewhere else, not give them the attention they need, and ignore the behavior. As a parent, you can make those judgments and figure out if it is best to acknowledge and talk about their behaviors or ignore them in the moment. The most important thing is to teach your child that they don’t get to use their aggression to get your attention or get their needs met, help them learn to use their words or other methods.
While toddler aggression is common, there are ways that you can help your child manage their emotions and learn to avoid using these aggressive behaviors. If you have any questions, be sure to contact Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Center today!