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Dealing with Aggression

In Understanding Aggression: External Factors, we covered some of the most common reasons behind aggressive behavior in toddlers. Once you’ve understood the reasons behind your child’s actions, you can take the necessary measures to correct your toddler’s behavior. Read on to learn more about the different tactics that you can employ to deal with and defuse child aggression.

Set ground rules
Whenever you see other children fighting, notice a TV character being violent, or catch your child pushing a playmate, seize the opportunity to firmly remind your toddler that using physical force when angry or when they want something is unacceptable and that it is never okay to hurt another person. You will have to repeat this concept to your child frequently until they accept and memorize it.

Adopt a moderate disciplinary approach
Children mimic their parents’ behavior, and violent/aggressive parents tend to raise violent/aggressive children, so avoid using physical disciplining methods such as spanking or bullying your child into submission. Similarly, being too lenient with your toddler to the point of being a pushover will teach your child that they can get away with wrong behavior, so adopt a middle-ground approach that sets firm limits and maintains structure whilst giving your child plenty of opportunities to make their own choices.

Resort to positive reinforcement
Children sometimes act out when they don’t receive enough attention and appreciation from their parents when they’re behaving themselves, so nip aggression in the bud by noticing and rewarding good behavior. Make sure to offer praise, smiles, and hugs when your child acts nicely, and limit your reaction to bad behavior to stopping your child and taking reasonable disciplinary actions without making a huge fuss.

Acknowledge your toddler’s feelings
Let your child know that you understand the reasons behind their frustration or anger, and that you accept these feelings and will help your toddler get through them and come to a compromise that you can both accept, but that physical violence is never okay regardless of how unhappy your child is.

Encourage verbal communication
Teach your child how to express what they want and how they feel with words rather than through aggression such as hitting or biting. Talk to your toddler often to encourage them to expand their vocabulary and help them translate their feelings into words.

Provide your toddler with opportunities to vent
Keeping feelings like frustration and anger pent up for long periods of time will naturally culminate in an explosive tantrum or aggressive behavior. To prevent this from happening with your child, give them plenty of opportunities to let their frustration out by channeling their energy towards more positive and safe activities such as dancing to lively music, punching and kneading dough, and sharing their feelings openly with you.

Understand your toddler’s limits
Toddlers tend to lose their ability to make sensible decisions when they’ve reached their limit, such as when they’re exhausted. Learn to recognize when your child approaches such moments of irrationality and avoid scheduling play dates or overstimulating your little one.

Incorporate soothing activities into your child’s day
Each day, set time aside to play quiet games with your toddler, read a book, sing quiet songs, and cuddle. Such activities can help defuse a toddler’s aggressiveness, and can have a relaxing effect on both parent and child.

Be a good role model. Consistently dealing with your own problems and disagreements maturely and calmly in front of your child will teach them to act similarly. Teach your child how to compromise or apologize by using such behavior yourself, and never allow your anger to dictate your actions.

Know when not to interfere
Children will always be children so turn a blind eye to minor scuffles such as harmless pushing and let your toddler and their playmates solve their disagreements themselves as long as there is no danger to either party, but make sure to keep a close eye on the situation just in case.

If the situation begins to escalate, suggest a method of compromise to the children, such as offering another truck if two children are fighting over a toy truck, or prompting the children to take turns playing with a certain toy. If they don’t accept the compromise, take the toy away and suggest another fun activity that they can all enjoy.

Know when to step in
If a play date threatens to turn into a battlefield, step in immediately to stop the violence and focus on rescuing and soothing the victim rather than telling off the perpetrator. If your toddler is the aggressor, distract the victim with another activity and take your toddler aside, then calmly and briefly explain to your toddler that such behavior is unacceptable and that their actions hurt their playmate.

If you feel it is necessary, warn your child about the consequences of their actions, such as telling them that they will have to sit for time-out or that you will take them back home, but don’t make such threats unless you’re actually going to go through with them.