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Guest Post: 8 Ways to Deal with Aggression in Toddlers

Hey lovelies! Today I’m excited to say that we have a guest post by the amazing Elna, who you may recognize from her great blogs, Imperfectly Perfect Mama, Smart Mom Ideas, Twins Mommy, and Elna Cain.

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Elna has generously written a post about a topic that has been near and dear to my heart lately, how to deal with aggression in toddlers.

My sweet little Oscar has begun some not-so-sweet habits. At three, he is incredibly smart, but he is slightly behind with his speech and has trouble verbalizing his thoughts. As a result, Oscar has started to bite, hit, spit, and pinch when he is upset. This is all new territory for me, as my daughter Abby never went through an Aggressive phase as a toddler or later.

Thank you for your fantastic post, Elna!

8 Ways to Deal with Aggression in Toddlers

Remember when your baby was just a sweet little cherub that melted into the crook of your arm, staring up lovingly at you with those big and beautiful eyes?

When did your little angel suddenly turn into a rage monster?

It’s no secret that toddlers have the potential to be aggressive but many parents have a hard time wrapping their heads around why.

Likewise, they also have no idea how to deal with it.

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Which is completely understandable. Babies don’t come with manuals and your little one’s sudden shift in attitude can be a shock to your parenting-style and nerves.

Never fear, though, because there is a very good reason why your child is acting this way. There are also some solid parenting methods you can use to curb Aggressive Behavior.

Why Are Toddlers Aggressive?

Between the ages of about 18 months to 3 years, toddlers are beginning to develop the awareness that they are separate individuals from their parents.

With this comes the need to assert themselves, distinguish between what they like and what they don’t like and perform everyday tasks independently.

However, at this age they still have limited self-control and patience. They are not equipped to wait for what they want as well as communicate the new and big feelings they are experiencing.

Even though toddlers have a pretty solid vocabulary of basic words and phrases, they still depend heavily on using actions to communicate their needs.

How often has your toddler stood at your feet and raised their arms to be picked up?

However, when it comes to frustration and anger, there’s no universal sign to express these emotions so toddlers will typically lash out with actions such as hitting, biting, kicking, grabbing and biting.

These behaviors are a completely normal part of your toddler’s developing communication skills – to what degree they occur depends on your child’s unique personality and situation.

Preventing Aggressive Behaviors

While aggressive behavior is normal for toddlers, you can certainly take action to prevent as much of these behaviors from occurring as possible.

Children learn what they see and they model their reactions and responses off of parents and other important grown ups in their life. 

When it comes to aggression, if they see you or anyone else consistently deal with issues in aggressive or even violent ways, they are going to assume it is an appropriate way to deal with a situation.

You can curb a lot of your toddler’s aggressive behavior by being a role model when it comes to dealing with frustration and anger.

It’s okay to show your child how you feel, just make sure you model better ways to manage your emotions, such as taking deep breaths, taking a break or even squeezing a pillow.

However, even the best role model parents are going to deal with their toddler lashing out. When this does happen, keep these following tips in mind:

How to Deal with Aggression in Toddlers

1. Keep Your Cool

Kids crave attention and, at such a young age, they are not picky as to whether it is positive or negative attention.

So when your little one starts kicking, biting and hitting, it’s best that you remain calm and avoid an overreaction.

Otherwise, your child is going to use aggressive behavior as a way to get a reaction from you.

2. Determine the Cause

Even though children seem to lose their minds over absolutely nothing, most of the time there is going to be something causing their aggressive behavior.

Knowing what is causing them to lash out is going to give you the tools you need to correct and redirect the behavior.

Remember, toddler aggression is simply a physical response to feelings such as frustration and anger.

Sometimes it can be helpful to keep a journal of the times your little one acts aggressively. Make note of what happened immediately before the incident.

You may be surprised to find out there is a pattern.

3. Address the Emotion

We know that toddlers act aggressively because they are feeling some big emotions that they don’t have the skills to communicate.

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Before even addressing the behavior, help your child identify their feelings.

You can say something like, “You are mad,” or “You’re upset”.

Your child is going to learn to associate those words to the way they feel and, eventually, become better able to express themselves instead of resorting to aggressive behavior.

4. Discuss the Behavior

Just because their communication skills are still developing doesn’t mean you can’t sit your child down and talk about what happened.

The key is to wait until the tirade is over and everyone is calm. Only then will you have your child’s attention.

Begin by acknowledging their emotions, then follow up by explaining how their behavior was not appropriate.

“I know you were mad but hitting is not okay. It hurts.”

Keep it plain and simple and easy for your toddler to understand.

5. Avoid the Behavior

You should only try to avoid the behavior whenever it doesn’t disrupt the normal flow of your everyday life.

For example, if your little one becomes aggressive at bathtime, you can’t just stop giving him or her a bath.

However, if your little one gets worked up when they are bored, you can always have fun and engaging activities ready for them to do.

The more you can proactively, and reasonably, avoid the aggressive behavior, the less it will occur.

6. Redirect the Behavior

Redirecting a behavior happens in the moment by providing your child an appropriate “distraction” from their aggressive behavior.

This isn’t an instance of, “Hey, look over there!” or “Here’s some candy if you calm down.” Instead, it means giving your child a more appropriate emotional outlet for their feelings.

Kids are sensory creatures and often respond positively to tactile activities such as playdoh, moon sand or even squishy balloons.

So when you’re little one is hitting, for example, you can hand them something squishy for them to hold in their hands. If they are kicking, you can have them kick a ball or pillow instead.

Biters often benefit from chewable toys designed for older children.

Not only does this help to reduce the behavior as it’s happening, but it also teaches your little one how to more appropriately respond to emotions they can’t explain.

Just  make sure you keep these activities on hand and introduce them as soon as a behavior is about to start – or even if you know one is about to start.

7. Deal with Their Anxieties

Anxiety is not just a grown up issue. It stems from fearing the unknown future and children rely heavily on expectation as they are growing and learning.

This is why routines are so important in a child’s life. Not that you have to schedule every moment of every day, but when your little one has a good idea of what is going to happen next, they are less likely to become anxious.

Can you imagine being a toddler and trying to explain anxiety? It would be near impossible, so the next best thing is to demonstrate how it feels – and this usually manifests as aggressive behavior.

If your child’s aggressive behavior stems from anxiety, you can try these tips (apart from the others I’ve mentioned above):

  • Give your child a comfort toy.
  • Practice mindfulness (it’s never too early!).
  • Read books about anxiety.

So if you can manage your child’s anxieties, you can reduce a lot of their aggressive behavior.

8. Be Open and Accepting

Your child needs to be a safe place for them to freely express how they feel. Even though their behaviors may not be acceptable, their need for comfort and understanding is.

Children are, unfortunately, going to grow up in a world that emphasizes perfection and normalizes poor self-image. 

Your understanding and caring nature is what is going to help them develop the fortitude to develop and maintain self-love, self-acceptance and self-confidence.

When you confront aggressive behavior with patience, understanding and a willingness to help them work past it, you are giving your child the tools to develop into a confident individual.

This Too Will Pass

Being told that your toddler’s aggressive stage will someday pass is probably the last thing you want to hear while in the midst of it – but it’s true.

And the more you address it with love, care and patience, the quicker that will happen.

When you look at it as not dealing with the behavior but helping your child deal with the behavior, you’re going to begin to see the changes in your little one’s reactions as they learn and grow.

How do you deal with your child’s aggressive behavior? Share your tips and advice in the comments!

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Elna is a professional blogger and freelance writer. She helps mom bloggers make money blogging so they can stay home with their little ones too! Grab her free guide to get your first $1,000 from your blog.

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Please take time to check out Elna’s other work at Imperfectly Perfect Mama, Smart Mom Ideas, Twins Mommy, and Elna Cain!

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Guest Post: 8 Ways to Deal with Aggression in Toddlers


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