Do You Have an Aggressive Toddler?
Can’t find time to read all of those parenting books and magazines? Don’t have a lot of mommy friends to bounce ideas off of? Kids go crazy every time you get on the phone to ask a friend their advice? No problem; I’ll do the work for you!
Each Thursday I bring you kid-tested tips and parenting solutions for a specific parenting challenge “from the mouths of moms.” We’ve already shared lots of tips for dealing with picky eaters, getting kids to sleep better, ensuring stress-free play dates, cooking with kids, potty training success, promoting sibling bonding, and teaching good touch bad touch. Now here are direct quotes from a diverse group of moms (with kids of all ages and tons of ideas) on taming toddler aggression. Meet your new mommy friends…
Alright, Mamas, How Do You Tame Toddler Aggression like Biting, Hitting, Pinching, etc.?
1. Practice Being Gentle with a Doll
“So far with my 1yr old I’ve just been trying to show by example, by demonstrating gentle touch on her baby doll.” Christina
2. Praise Positive & Gentle Behavior
“And along those lines, try to point out and praise them whenever you see gentle behavior/play with others and their dolls. Like ‘Oh, that’s so nice the way you’re being gentle with your baby. She likes soft touch and hugs, doesn’t she?’” Krissy from B-Inspired Mama
[Tweet “Toddler Aggression Tip: Praise them whenever you see gentle behavior.”]
3. Assess the Root Cause
“I was on pregnancy bed rest for 20 weeks when my son was 2. He became very aggressive and started biting and hitting the family members who were helping me take care of him. I realized that it was important to deal with WHY he was acting up and show him the love and attention he needed at the time instead of over reacting to the behavior itself. Once I was up and our home returned to normal, he immediately calmed down and the negative behavior stopped.” Bethany from No Twiddle Twaddle
4. Teach About Emotions
“Many times toddler aggression has to do with difficulty being able to understand and express their feelings … and having a hard time communicating in general! So, helping a child learn about basic emotions (happy, sad, mad), giving them the words for those emotions (‘Wow … it looks like you are really mad right now.’), and working on language development can help with the aggression.” Laura from playdrmom
[Tweet “Toddler Aggression Tip: Give them words for their emotions.”]
5. Remove Them From the Situation
“I remove my child from the situation and help him calm down by holding him. Typically with toddlers this type of behavior is more a self regulation issue than simply ‘being bad.’ They don’t know how to respond or they don’t think before they act (or both!).” Marnie from Carrots Are Orange
6. Sing a Song
“When I worked at a preschool we made up a song about things we can do instead of biting or hitting. For example, ‘use your mouth for kissing, use your mouth for kissing, use your mouth for kissing, we don’t want to bite, no!’” Amy from Z is for Zel
7. Practice With Pets
“Redirecting and remodeling is a great teaching tool. Also talking about gentle touch with others, even the animals. With my 18 month old since the day she discovered the kitty, we’ve been working on the word gentle and every time we say it we gently pet the kitty or gently rub mommy cheek or arm.” Kim from The Educators’ Spin On It
8. Encourage Empathy
“[I] say ‘no, that isn’t nice’ – explain why… ask the child how they would feel if it happened to them… and warn them that if they do it again in same play session, that they need to go on the naughty step… then if they do… do send them.” Maggie from Red Ted Art
9. Give Them a Way to Get Out Physical Aggression
“Much of goblin’s biting seems to come when he is tired and I don’t think it is meant aggressively. We say ‘don’t bite mummy/daddy bite this’ and hand him something soft, usually either a toy or his jacket. It works a treat. If he is aggressively throwing stuff but not endangering himself or others I will sometimes leave him to it because I think sometimes toddlers need an outlet for aggression.” The Monko from Taming the Goblin
[Tweet “Toddler Aggression Tip: Sometimes they need a safe outlet for aggression.”]
10. Drown Out Negative Behavior with a Positive Activity
“Sometimes you can cut down on the aggressive behavior by engaging the child in a positive parent-child activity earlier in the day – especially if there is a particular time of day when the toddler tends to become aggressive.” MaryAnne from Mama Smiles
11. Give a Hug or Cuddle
“If he is hitting me, which is rare, I will hold his wrists firmly but gently and cuddle him and talk very very calmly saying ‘hitting isn’t nice, it hurts mummy, lets be gentle with mummy’ then I’ll take his hand and show him how to gently stroke me (we also do this with the cat). It usually works well.” The Monko from Taming the Goblin
12. Ignore the Behavior
“I have 2 biters – we have come out the other end with J, it was a lot of ignoring how much it hurts us when he did it to us. When we reacted he would find it funny and do it again harder, when we didn’t react he would get annoyed that it wasn’t causing the ‘attention’ that he wanted and needed.” Cerys from Rainy Day Mum
13. Make Sure They Get Enough Exercise
“Be sure they have opportunities to burn energy and steam. Even as an adult, when I work out I release any tension or frustration I have. Go for a walk with your kids, kick a soccer ball around in the back yard, or take a dip in the pool. Above all, avoid making them suppress their emotions.” Allison from Train Up A Child
Does your toddler have trouble with aggression: biting, hitting, or pinching? How do you deal with it? Join the conversation in the comments below!
More Toddler Parenting Tips “From the Mouths of Moms”:
Hi moms…this is a fathet seeking advice…my 3 year old is just out of hand for me and my wife. His “out of control” not listening, very aggresive, very rough, ignores us, disrespects us, not patient, frustrated when he cant do things and wants no help…please moms i really need advice..thanks in advanced
Krissy of B-Inspired Mama says
Ugh, three-year-olds can be tough! That’s when they are starting to explore their independence yet their developmental and physical abilities haven’t yet caught up with all they want to do. My suggestions: First, consistency – Stay consistent with whatever behavior management you do. Even as consistent as using the same key phrases, like “We do not hurt others.” or “Let’s sit together until you are calm.” And now is the time to be teaching replacement behaviors so they become second nature for him later. When he’s being rough, model and have him practice using gently touch on his favorite stuffed animal. Also, give choices whenever possible so he feels empowered. Like 2 different appropriate snacks for him to choose from. Or 2 different activities for him to do. You can use choice when dealing with behaviors, too. Such as, “Hitting is never okay. Because you hit, you will have to ______, until you choose to apologize and play ________ instead.” Hope this helps!
Great tips! I have a 2-year-old and baby #2 due any day now, so these are definitely very helpful! I love your perspective and the emphasis on GENTLE discipline. I hear too many times people blaming tantrums on not hitting your kids, but I feel if your parenting skills are good enough you should never have to resort to that. Thanks for posting!
Krissy of B-Inspired Mama says
Agreed! Thanks for the positive feedback. And good luck with the new baby!
Amie (Triple T Mum) says
Great list of different things for readers to try that has worked for other mom's. I am showcasing this on Triple T Mum's Kids Co-op post (live on Thursday). I am also pinning it to the Kids Co-op board. Thanks for sharing on the Kids Co-op!
Krissy Sherman Bonning says
YAY – thanks Amie!
Another great post in the series! One thing I loved most about reading each tip is how every mom has to change it up to work with her own little one. This is a great round up of ideas for moms to try out when they are in this situation.
Krissy Sherman Bonning says
Yes – I love how every mom has different ideas and experiences. It's what makes this series so great!
MaryAnne K says
Love this series – and would have found this post SO helpful when we had this issue a couple years ago. I'm sure it will come in handy in the future, as well!
Krissy Sherman Bonning says
I think it's something we all deal with at some point as mamas!