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Sunday 14 May 2017

Toddler Aggression, Hitting and Biting #toddlerbehavior

Brianna, © 2017

My daughter will be turning two in exactly two months from now. I can't believe how quickly the time has gone, especially when I look at old photos. There have been plenty of ups and downs, with many sleepless nights. Things are starting to get easier, however, we are kind of entering new territory... she's starting to throw temper tantrums. Yes, the terrible two's are pretty much upon us at home, and aggressive behavior is a normal part of their development. With a toddlers emerging language skills, the desire for independence, and an undeveloped impulse control, it makes children of this age the perfect candidate for aggressive behavior.

Some degree of hitting and biting is normal, however, that doesn't mean that you should ignore it. Make sure that your little one knows that aggressive behavior is unacceptable, and try to show her other ways to express her feelings.

Ways to help combat aggressive behavior

Follow through with consequences. If your child is throwing something at another child, remove her from the area immediately. Sit down with her and watch the other children play, and explain that she can go back when she's ready without hurting the other kids. Avoid reasoning or lecturing her, as she's not capable of imagining herself in another child's shoes, or changing behavior based on verbal reasoning. She should be able to understand consequences.

Don't lose your shit. Screaming, hitting, or telling your child she's bad won't get her to make positive adjustments to her behavior. It would just get her more worked up, and give her examples of negative behavior to try. Having her see that you've controlled your temper, may help towards the first step of controlling hers.

Set limits. Make sure to respond right away when your little one is being aggressive. Remove her from the situation for a short time, to give her time to cool down. After a while she should be able to connect her behavior with the consequence. She will realize that if she hits or bites, she ends up out of the fun.

Discipline consistently. Try to respond to all temper tantrums the same way. You want to set a pattern that your child learns, so she can recognize the consequences to her actions. Eventually it will sink in, and she will learn that if she misbehaves, there will be a time-out.

Teach some alternatives. Try and wait until your little one settles down, and then go over what just happened. Ask her why she was upset and ask why she acted that way. Let her know that it's natural to have angry feelings at times, but it's not okay to hit, bite, kick. Let her know that there's other ways of expressing her feelings, like using words to express herself or asking an adult to help. Encourage her to apologize if she has a tantrum towards someone.

Reinforce good behavior. Instead of only giving attention when there's bad behavior, make sure to catch while she's being good. Make sure you praise her for verbalizing her feelings, and she will eventually realize the power of the words. Reinforce good behavior with some sort of reward.

Limit electronics. This is a big one with the way technology is... limit cellphone, computers, and tablets for children under two. Even if it's cartoons or video games, many contain shouting, shoving and hitting. Excessive screen time may contribute to behavior problems as they grow. It may also interfere with social and emotional development. Children of all ages should have their screen time limited to no more than two hours daily. You would want to monitor their use, especially if you notice any behavior issues. Watch some of the shows with her, and discuss how characters resolve conflicts.

Get more physical. You may notice that if you're little one isn't getting enough physical activity, they might act up more. They need a chance to burn off their energy, or they might become a little terror at home.

Ask for help. If you think your child's aggression is getting out of hand, don't be afraid to talk to your doctor. You can work on a plan together, to help the child get through it.

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