The toddler’s world is an interesting one. Toddlers are realising that they are separate entities from their parents and that they have some influence over the world around them. They are learning to assert themselves and communicate their likes and dislikes. At this stage, however, they also have very little self control.
Life can be very frustrating for a toddler. While they are trying to be independent and assert their will, they also have limited communication skills and can’t always verbalise how they are feeling. Acting out with a kick, smack, bite or a pinch is not unheard of and is, in fact, quite common in children under four.
As parents, it is our task to help toddlers modify their aggression and communicate their anger and frustration in more appropriate ways. First, it is necessary to revisit our own reactions to them when they get aggressive. Are we being aggressive? Perhaps we need to adjust our own approach so that we model a calmer way of reacting to situations?
Second, look at the situations that trigger your child’s aggression. If you know what fuels them then you are more equipped to intervene next time. Remember that toddlers live in the moment and, therefore, swift and consistent intervention is the most powerful. If you can catch them in the moment you are more likely to have an effect than trying to have a discussion about the behaviour after the fact.
Lastly, ask yourself whether your child is generally aggressive, or only in specific situations. There may be a very specific reason he is acting out. We all know of situations and other people who test our own patience as adults – kids are the same (yet with less control over the situation or who they are plonked down next to to play with!) On the other hand, if the aggression seems more general, you are not able to identify any triggers for it, or you are struggling to manage it, it is recommended that you seek assistance in managing the behaviour.