It is such a joy for parents to see their once helpless baby learning new skills as they grow to be toddlers. Milestones such as a baby’s first word or first step are things that parents look forward to.
However, often accompanying that joy are worry, confusion, and frustration especially when toddlers enter into what many terms as the “terrible twos” and display signs of aggression.
Here are some common concerns faced by parents with aggressive toddlers:
1. I am afraid to let my child socialize with other children. I am afraid he will hit or bite the other child when he doesn’t get what he wants.
2. I’ve tried reasoning with my child, explaining why hitting is bad. I’ve even tried scolding and timeout. But nothing seems to work. I don’t know what else to do.
3. Every time my child hurts another child, I feel so bad. I just know that the other parents must think I am a bad parent.
4. I hope that this is just a phase my child is going through and it will soon end.
To help an aggressive toddler, a parent must first understand the reason for the aggression. This is important because then the parent doesn’t just label a child as “bad” or “naughty” and react to them in that manner. One of the main reasons why a toddler shows aggression is because they are still lacking in their language skills.
They have yet to learn the proper way to express their needs and emotions. Another factor to consider is if the child is tired. Even in adults, tiredness leads to crankiness.
There are several things a parent can do to combat a child’s aggression.
1. Replace bad habits with better ones. Teach the child proper behavior. Don’t just tell them what not to do, teach them what they should do instead. For example, don’t just tell your child not to hit. Teach him how to ask for the toy politely.
2. Give attention to the child that is hurt. This way you do not reward your child’s behavior with your attention.
3. Roleplay. Identify situations that may trigger aggressive behavior. Act them out together or use dolls or puppets. You can act out both good behavior and aggressive behavior and ask your child which is right. Or you could just stop in the middle of the story and ask your child what the puppet should do.
Reinforce the lesson by listing down on a piece of paper what is the right way. You don’t have to use words; you could do an illustration and put it up on the refrigerator.
4. Do not yell or spank when you reprimand your child. Instead, talk in a serious tone. Be a good model on how you handle your displeasure.
5. Be persistent and consistent. Children learn through repetition. Learning how to handle aggression does not happen in one lesson.
If you have to say it a 100 times, do it. Don’t give up and say, “I hope he grows out of it.” It may be a phase they are going through, but it is also where teaching and learning have to take place.
If all else fails, maybe parents need to dig deeper into the child’s aggressive problem. A child’s aggression may also have their roots in the following:
1. Low self-esteem.
2. Stress. Yes, children do have stress too.
3. Influence of television or friends.
4. Physical or learning disabilities.
5. Relationship between parent and child.
6. Poor parenting skills.
In other words, take a step back and take a good look at your child, his or her environment, and also yourself. Then be strong enough to make the necessary changes.
Remember, handling emotions is tough even for adults. What more toddlers who are just learning the ways of the world.
So, to help your aggressive toddler, be someone who understands; someone who will not react to them but rather someone who will guide and teach them. If the problem is tough, get tougher and dig deeper. And remember, never ever give up.