• Dr Martine Prunty

HOW TO MANAGE AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR IN TODDLERS



When professionals refer to “aggression” in toddlers we mean behaviours such as kicking, biting, pinching, scratching etc. Children vary in the degree to which they engage in these behaviours so whilst it is a normal developmental stage for all children, it is not as problematic for everyone.


Essentially, young children lack the communication skills necessary to accurately express their frustrations in order to be understood. They also self-control, emotional maturity and a proper understanding of others’ feelings. They are not naughty or mean.

With some guidance from you, your child can learn to manage their big feelings when they get overwhelmed, angry or frustrated.


Here are some strategies you can use to try and manage aggressive behaviour:

· Pre-empt: Try to closely watch your child when they play so that you can jump in if you see them becoming frustrated. This provides you with an opportunity to coach them through what has happened before anyone gets hurt.

· Distract: If it is too late and your child is already very upset or has hurt someone, try to distract them with another activity until they calm down. This makes it less likely that the other person will retaliate.

· Teach: Use opportunities when there is no conflict and your child is calm to role play what they might do in difference scenarios.

· Consider when the behaviours are most problematic in order to link it to factors such as hunger, fatigue, illness, anxiety, or another emotional cause, whether the behaviours occur across all environments or if it’s just a problem at home or daycare, etc.

· Using time out: When a child injures someone else you can kneel down to their level and firmly say, “no biting, time out”. Take them by the hand to a chair, or standing at a wall and instruct them to stay there a minute for their age. This one is tricky, because younger kids tend to run away. Only take this one on if you are willing to patiently walk them back EACH AND EVERY TIME they leave time out. The most consistent and persistent you are with this method, the sooner your child will learn that you are the boss, and not them.

· Try not to lose control: This one is hard, particularly if aggressive behaviours are frequent and have been long-standing and especially when your child significantly hurts one of your other children. But. Also remember that losing control will only model a lack of self-control, which is exactly what is happening with your little person.


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