Sick of fight night featuring your two-year-old versus the world?
If you’ve got a future MMA fighter in your house then you’ll know that toddler aggression is real and dealing with it is exhausting AF.
Yes, older babies and toddlers don’t always know what they’re doing. Exploring the world and their surroundings involves a whole bunch of different senses. And sometimes, well, that can mean hostile behaviour.
Aggressive behaviour is most common between the ages of 18 months and two-and-a-half years. This is because verbal skills are still developing and communication is tricky. Toddlers have a whole bunch of needs (some would say demands) and when they can’t adequately convey them they use actions. And those actions aren’t always gentle.
Here’s what you need to know to help stop your toddler hitting (and punching and kicking and biting).
5 Ways to Stop Your Toddler Hitting
1. Encourage different ways of expression
#babylife is all about using hands and mouth. This is how bubs experience the world. As babies grow into little people, they may still revert to this method of exploration and expression, especially when tired or frustrated. Encouraging new forms of communication is key. If your toddler isn’t a big talker yet, you can work on using actions, sounds or even pictures to help them convey their needs. Sometimes, aggressive behaviour can be a result of excitement or frustration. Helping your toddler find other ways to direct their energy can help stop problems in their tracks. Dancing, singing, banging musical instruments, pretty much anything physical (and noisy) works well.
2. Know the triggers
Tiredness, certain foods, social spaces, friendships, even TV shows can set some toddlers off. Again, it’s all about them struggling to process their feelings and convey what they need. Knowing what triggers your toddler hitting can help you work out which emotions or feelings they may be struggling with, and head off aggression at the pass. You can’t veto social outings altogether (life without coffee is a fate worth than death), but awareness can help you re-direct situations before they happen.
3. Keep pushing the ‘gentle’ agenda
“Gentle, gentle, GENTLE!” You might feel like you’re saying it all.the.time, but having a consistent approach and message is crucial for little critters who love routine (AKA every child under five). Employing the message ‘in the moment’ helps reinforce behaviour expectations. If your child hits a friend (or you), make sure you act on it immediately and remind them of what they’ve done wrong (hit someone) and why it’s not acceptable (because we should be gentle). You can also encourage the other child to react in a way that helps teach your child what not to do (‘I don’t want to play with you if you hurt me.’)
4. Focus on the positives
It’s so easy to only pick kids up on their behaviour when they’re being naughty. It’s just as important (if not more so) to reward good behaviour. Praising them for positive interactions or creating a reward chart for older toddlers is a great way to build up an understanding that playing nicely/not hitting leads to good things.
5. Fill up their (attention) cup
Often, toddler aggression is a reaction to change. Moving house, a new baby, mummy going back to work, all of these things can really rock the world of your youngster and they struggle to know how to handle it. Hitting, kicking and biting can be a desperate cry for more attention. Giving your toddler plenty of love, attention and quality time can make all the difference in behaviour.
5. Consider your ‘punishment’
Good behaviour begets good behaviour. AKA if you use a smack to punish your toddler for hitting, it’s not really going to push the ‘gentle’ message and may even confuse them. Experts recommend the use of time outs as an effective discipline strategy. For young children, a couple of minutes is all that is needed. For a time out to be effective, it’s important to action it immediately after the hitting has occurred. Explain to your child exactly what they’ve done wrong and why they are being removed to the time out zone.
The most important takeaways? Consistency and kindness. Toddler hitting behaviour is normal. Freakin’ annoying, embarrassing, painful and yes, frustrating as hell, but it is something that will eventually resolve. Consistent messaging, gentle discipline strategies and an understanding of toddler development can help you survive toddler fight club and live to tell the tale.
Need more advice for dealing with toddler tantrums? Check out our top tantrum busting tips.