Toddlers and preschoolers are at an age where they don’t always have the self control for peaceful anger.  This can mean that your child may lead to hitting, kicking, or biting.  It doesn’t have to be another child.  Your child can show aggression towards other people or even toys.  This could include throwing toys or trying to break them on purpose.  At this age, it is very common.  That does not mean that you dismiss this aggression as just a phase.  Early intervention is key to stop the aggression from moving up into their later years of life.  If you leave aggression uncorrected it could last up till adulthood.  

Aggression is normal development for toddlers and preschoolers.  They are showing their curiosity, testing limits, and learning what is appropriate behavior.  This is also the age where they start pushing boundaries and limits.  Usually meaning that their aggression is not out of malice or meanness.  Aggression can happen for a child who lacks language skills, emotional regulations, or impulse control.  Your child may also be more short tempered than others.  Another cause is your child may take everything that happens to them so personally they react aggressively when conflict arises.  Feeling betrayed on top of big toddler feelings can lead to a big reaction that is not a positive one.  Other causes of aggression in children at this age are self-defense, stress, lack of routine, extreme frustration or anger, over-stimulation, exhaustion, lack of adult supervision, or mirroring others behaviors.  

Learning what sets your child’s aggression off can help you learn how best to handle it.  If you know your child always has aggression towards one child at playgroup, separating them can help diffuse the trouble.  Knowing if when your child skips their nap, tends to lead them to be more aggressive in the afternoon, you will know to keep activities low stress and calm to help take away the triggers of aggression.  

Even if you know all of your child’s aggression triggers.  Aggression can still happen.  It’s normal, it’s part of their development.  They are learning how to control their bodies and their emotions all at once.  It can be very hard.  So it is important that when your child gets aggressive you step in immediately.  Do not give their bad behavior too much attention.  Calmly and firmly tell them, no and that they don’t get to hit, bite, or kick.  This should be enough to get the point across.  Your child cannot comprehend lengthy speeches.  Short and sweet.  Remove your child from the situation.  If you feel like a time out is needed, set your child a space where they can calm themselves before returning to play.  It is also important for you to apologize to the victim, and not force your child to right away.  Make sure that the victim isn’t harmed, and it is ok where your child can see you, so they may pick up on having some empathy for others who are hurt.  

Set your family rules and boundaries and tell them to your child over and over.  Constantly remind your child, in this family we don’t react like that.  Give your child ways they can react appropriately when you play with them.  You can tell your child it is ok to be angry but you leave the room, you don’t hit.  Encourage your child to use their words instead of being physical.  This means for you as well if you have an aggressive child, it is important to not hit or bite them back.  They won’t understand why you are able to do those actions and they cannot.  Another thing to make sure you tread lightly with is roughhousing.  Roughhousing and pretend wrestling can be fun for some children.  An aggressive child may get too rough, or not know the difference between pretend fighting and real fighting.  When roughhousing if your child hits you too hard, stop the play altogether and tell them why you are having to stop.  

Constituent consequences and redirections will help your child navigate their aggression.  Usually if you are consistent with it, this part of your child’s development won’t last very long.  In some cases aggression can become extreme.  Signs to watch out for extreme aggression are defiance that happens more often than not, almost chronic defiance towards multiple people, your child loses their temper easily, they are constantly arguing with all adults they come in contact with, your child blames others, or they exhibit ongoing anger.  If your child displays any of these talking with your child’s pediatrician can help you find out other ways to help your child with their severe aggression.  



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