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Understanding Aggression - External Factors

Sometimes, aggression manifests in toddlers as a result of external factors springing from their environment, conditions imposed upon them, or their caregivers’ behavior rather than due to internal factors. You will need to eliminate or minimize such factors in order to reduce your child’s tendency towards aggression. Here are the most common external factors that contribute to aggressive child behavior.

Young children can suddenly turn aggressive when they’re tired and cranky because they’re coming down with an illness or they’re just recovering from one. Be patient in this case and gently defuse aggressive behavior whilst offering support and comfort to your child.

Long stretches of hunger can trigger frustration and crankiness, leaving your child short-tempered and easily angered. Since young toddlers aren’t very good at dealing with such negative emotions, they will understandably lash out at those around them, so don’t let your child go without eating for too long.

Sleep Deprivation:
Not getting enough sleep can leave a full grown and logical adult physically and emotionally on edge, so imagine how cranky a young toddler will be if they’re not getting enough naps or can’t sleep through the night because they’re teething, for example. This type of frustration can easily give rise to aggressive behavior, so try to find ways to help your child get enough sleep each day.

Inadequate Attention:
When toddlers don’t get enough praise or attention from their parents when they’re behaving themselves, they tend to start acting out instead. Make sure you offer your child praise and encouragement when they’re acting nicely in order to prevent them from resorting to aggression and misbehaving to grab your attention.

Sudden Life Change:
Experiencing an unsettling life change, such as getting a new babysitter, being taken to daycare for the first time, or having their parents go on vacation and leave them behind can easily put young children on edge, which often results in their becoming aggressive and disagreeable. Try to introduce major changes gradually when possible, and give your child time to get used to new variations in their daily routines.

Uncontrolled Environment:
Parents and caregivers who don’t set and enforce ground rules can easily find themselves with unruly toddlers on their hands. Learn to be more assertive in disciplining your child and teaching them what type of behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.

Over Controlling Environment:
Toddlers are at an age when they want to feel more in control of their life and their choices, so being brought up in an over controlling environment where their parents and caregivers make all the calls can easily build up their frustration, which may eventually culminate aggression and unruliness. Allow your child to make choices in simple matters that affect them, such as what they would like for lunch, to counter this problem.

Hostile Environment:
Since young children adopt the behavior that they see displayed around them, whether from parents, caregivers, siblings or peers, it is natural to expect a toddler living in a hostile environment where physical violence is used regularly to display aggressiveness. Remove such influences from your child’s daily life and focus on correcting aggressive behavior by encouraging and reinforcing good behavior.

Parental Misguidance:
Some parents wrongly believe that their child’s aggressiveness is a positive and desirable trait, thinking that an aggressive and overly assertive child will grow up to be a successful adult. It’s important for parents to snap out of such misconceptions, as in reality aggressive children are not normally liked by peers, teachers or authority figures.

Impaired Caregivers:
The behavior of parents and caregivers can tangibly distress a toddler and lead them to become aggressive. This is particularly true when one or both parents suffer from depression, alcoholism, or drug addiction, or when there are marital or other problems that interfere with parents’ ability to function properly.