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Toddlers, Aggression, and What You Need to Know

Toddler aggression. Those are two words that parents don’t want to hear. But the good news is that aggressive behaviors from toddlers aren’t abnormal. Some seemingly aggressive behaviors aren’t intentional actions — that is, in your toddler’s mind.

If your toddler occasional hits or yells, take a look at why young children exhibit these types of behaviors, what you can do about them, and how the child care setting can help.

Emotional Development

Emotions aren’t easy to identify or control, especially for a toddler. A topsy-turvy stream that rolls from happiness to what seems like hatred in minutes is common for many kids ages one to three. The blend of immature emotional skills, need for exploration, and sudden independence that marks the toddler period can result in outward aggression.

Does this mean your toddler is an aggressive person or has a negative temperament? The answer depends on your child. But in most cases, what you’re seeing is your child’s emotional immaturity. The older your child gets, the greater control they’ll have over their emotions. This includes identifying powerful feelings and learning strategies to appropriately manage feelings.

Language Development

The ability to express powerful feelings requires more than emotional development. Even though this area of growth certainly plays a primary role in toddler aggression, language and communication development also contributes heavily.

While each child has their own developmental path, by 12 months most young toddlers speak a few words. By 16 months, this increases to up to 40 words, according to PBS Parents. An almost two-year-old typically can say nearly 200 words. Likewise, during this time period the toddler is also building their receptive vocabulary — the number of words that the child understands.

A toddler who doesn’t have the words or doesn’t have the communication skills yet to express emotions may act out physically. As your child learns emotional identification words and how to use them appropriately, you may see aggressive behaviors decrease.

Growing Independence

Some perceived aggressive behaviors are nothing more than an act of independence. A defiant, “No!” or a push away are the toddler’s way of taking control and exerting their newly developing sense of self. A toddler’s budding independence is a positive development that can lead to self-reliance, pride, and confidence.

Aggression-Reducing Strategies

How can you help your toddler to control their aggression? There isn’t one all-encompassing answer. Depending on the cause of the aggression, you’ll need to use different tactics.

Some easy and general tips to tame your child’s temper and decrease aggressive behaviors include:

  • Give words. Name emotions when you see them. Whether your child is angry, happy, or sad, point out the feeling and ask your child to repeat the name. You can also use pictures of faces in magazines or in books to help build your child’s emotional vocabulary.
  • Look for triggers. Some toddlers have clear triggers that set off aggression. This can range from illness or lack of sleep to social situations that require sharing.
  • Act as a role model. Everyone gets emotional. Show your child that you know how to handle your own emotions, name how you’re feeling, and briefly explain what you do to cool down.
  • Provide opportunities for independence. Always doing for your child may seem like the easy route. But this can result in power struggles. Provide plenty of safe and supervised opportunities for independence, such as allowing your child to put on their own coat or choose their outfit.

You aren’t alone when it comes to taming your child’s aggression. Work with their child care teacher to identify triggers and brainstorm strategies that minimize outbursts. Partnering with the professional takes some of the pressure of you and provides you with expert advice.

Are you looking for an early learning environment that will help your toddler to grow and develop? Contact Pine Hills Learning Place for more information.

Newsletter

We have a big, big announcement in our October 2018 Newsletter. After 31 years of excellent service to Pine Hills Learning Place, our beloved Director, Deb Ingram, will be retiring in December… click here to read more. 

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