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Key Takeaways:

  • Toddler aggression is a normal part of childhood but can become disruptive.
  • Aggression can be caused by frustration, mood disorders, curiosity, and impulsivity.
  • There are many ways to manage childhood aggression, including consulting a professional.

For some adults, mastering the ability to control one's emotions is challenging — what more for children? Between the ages of 1 and 3, your toddler is just beginning to experience emotional ups and downs. Young children are still learning how to control their emotions, which might result in aggressive behavior.

It's normal to be concerned about toddler aggression and whether it is normal. Here, we’ll discuss toddler aggression, when to worry, and how to handle it.

What is Toddler Aggression?

Toddler aggression is when children between one to three years of age display aggressive behaviors, such as hitting, kicking, and biting. This usually peaks at around age two, which is a time when toddlers have very strong feelings but are not yet able to use language effectively to express themselves. Toddlers also don't have the self-control to stop themselves from acting on their feelings.

Causes of Toddler Aggression

There are several causes that might result in toddler aggression. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Frustration
  • Impulsivity
  • Mood disorders
  • Curiosity
  • Mimicking modeled behaviors

How to Handle Aggressive Toddler Behaviors

Handling aggressive toddlers may seem like a daunting task for any parent. While the challenges are very real, there are ways to make handling aggression in children easier with these tips:

1. Teach and reinforce house rules

Parents must teach children the household rules because they won’t know them unless they are taught. Children should be reprimanded right after breaking an important rule so they can understand what they did wrong. Think about setting up a space in your house where your child can play with toys and books. This should also be a safe space where they can let out their frustrations in a healthy manner.

2. Help them express strong emotions

Allow your aggressive toddler to physically express their emotions while developing behavior management techniques. This could lessen physical aggression in the long term. Show your child that there are other ways to express their anger besides yelling, kicking, striking, or biting other people. They may squeeze or punch a pillow, jump up and down, or rip up a piece of paper.

Show your child that it is unacceptable to physically harm oneself, other children, or animals. They can express their rage in a variety of ways without hurting themselves or others. Using techniques in anger management for kids can also help, such as asking why your child feels angry, what happens when they feel angry, and what to do with their anger.

3. Use time-outs when appropriate

A time-out can be used with children as young as one year old when their behavior is unacceptable, and there is no harm in doing so. However, make sure that the approach to time out is still helpful for your child. Using an anger management activity like creating a calm-down space rather than a time-out corner might be more effective.

4. Don’t respond with aggression

When parenting an angry child, never yell, challenge, or show aggression back at your child. Do not hit your child to "teach him what it feels like" because the message it gives — that it's okay to hit someone as long as he's smaller than you — will ring loud and clear.

5. Praise your child for good behavior

When your child uses these strategies rather than hitting, kicking, or biting, compliment them on their good behavior and praise them for how grown-up they are acting. And don't forget to reward good behavior when you see your child being gentle and kind rather than angry and aggressive.

6. Use a distraction technique

Teach your child to channel their rage into something else rather than displaying aggressive behaviors towards people. For instance, an impatient child may benefit from watching a timer to keep them occupied rather than simply telling them to wait with nothing to do. All it may take for your child to stay calm is the vision of watching the timer's numbers decrease and the satisfaction of hearing the bell when the time is up. Kids' visual timers can be a fun method to keep them entertained while they learn how to wait for short periods of time.

7. Let your child make choices

When a toddler becomes angry, it may be because they were told to do something. Give your child a list of options to choose from rather than instructing them what to do. Being given a choice between two or three options might help your child feel in control of their environment and reduce the likelihood that they will become angry and aggressive.

When to Worry About Toddler Aggression

Aggressive behavior is typically nothing to worry about because it's just a child expressing their frustration, rage, and need for control in a primitive way. These behaviors will probably decrease as your child becomes more adept at using language and actions to express their emotions.

However, your child should never get so violent that they are physically damaging others or themselves. While some toddler aggressiveness is common, you should be concerned if:

  • Your child hurts themselves physically, as well as other family members like kids, adults, and pets.
  • Because of their hostile behavior, they are removed from public places like their classroom or school.
  • Their outbursts are quite frequent and intense, lasting for weeks.

The best course of action may be to seek help from a therapist or child development professional if a toddler exhibits signs of self-harm or is physically harming other children and you are unable to control their hostility.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even with all this information on toddler aggression, you may still have some questions about it. Here are some frequently asked questions about the topic:

How common is toddler aggression?

Aggressive behavior is a typical stage of emotional and behavioral development, particularly in toddlers. Nearly all kids punch, kick, and yell, and toddlers and even preschoolers frequently bite when they're overcome with strong emotions. A toddler's anger will probably have peaked by the time they turn 2 years old. Then they will start to develop more effective coping mechanisms as they develop.

Can therapy help with toddler aggression?

Through child therapy, aggressive kids are provided a secure outlet to communicate the things that make them feel angry and possibly violent. They'll start to learn safer ways of expressing their thoughts and emotions, which fosters emotional healing and development.

What is the difference between aggression and anger?

Aggression is a behavior or action that is aggressive, damaging, and/or violent, whereas anger is a feeling or emotion. Aggression may take the form of physical violence, object throwing, property damage, self-harming behaviors, verbal threats, or derogatory remarks.

The Bottom Line

Knowing when to be concerned about toddler aggression will make parenting simpler and help you better understand your child's needs. The most crucial thing is that you now know how to deal with aggressive behavior. How you approach the situation and handle the behavior is key to both your success as a parent and your child’s development.

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