Handling Toddler Aggression

Handling Toddler Aggression: When Hitting, Biting, and Pinching Get the Best of Your Child

Problem #1: We’ve all seen a child take a truck from another child in the sandbox, leading to a frustrated shove or slap. And every daycare classroom sees the occasional aggression stemming from one child sitting in another’s favorite spot, or using another’s favorite toy. This is simply a case of children defending their will, their turf, and their independence, by acting out aggressively.

Solution #1: Older toddlers may be able to understand the ultimate lesson, which is that hitting, biting, pinching, and other aggressive acts are not OK, no matter how precious a toy your child feels has been taken from him. Tell your child in no uncertain terms that hitting hurts and he is not allowed to hit others. Remove him from the situation for a few minutes to calm down. Younger toddlers may not understand your message. In this case, distraction can work like a charm. If you see a situation progressing to a potential altercation, distract your child with a new activity.

Problem #2: It is natural for children to want to communicate their needs, but if they are not accustomed to using their words yet, they may resort, instead, to a more simple form of communication: hitting or biting.

Solution #2: This process may take time, but remind your toddler over and over that if she uses the word “milk,” she will get milk. If she asks for her favorite toy, she can have it. Eventually, when she does use a word to ask for what she wants, praise her and remind her that solving her problem can be as simple as using a word or two to communicate her needs to you.

Problem #3: When a child has a cold, or hasn’t slept well, or has missed a snack, he is more likely to act out by hitting or biting. After all, when adults are feeling exhausted or hungry, they’re more likely to snap at one another!

Solution #3: Prevention is key. Keep snacks on hand when you’re out. Stay ahead of sleepiness by putting your child down for a nap or for bedtime before he’s overtired. And if he’s coming down with a cold, avoid potentially frustrating situations like playground wars or long trips to the grocery store!

For many parents, this phase seems endless, but most toddlers grow out of it in time. As your child masters communication, and develops new ways to cope with frustration, she will begin to act like a big kid and solve her problems accordingly.

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