It may have happened suddenly and without warning, or so it seemed: Your little, adorable, peaceful angel has suddenly been replaced by an aggressive toddler who hits and bites relatives, other children, and even you.
Although this behavior is unpleasant, it’s not out of the ordinary.
It’s typical for aggression in toddlers to start around age 2, according to Clinical Psychologist Dr. Laura Markham. She isn’t alone in this assessment. Many doctors and researchers suggest that aggressive behavior occurs in toddlers due to frustration, pent-up anger, or control and power issues. Since toddlers lack the ability to communicate as well as they’d like, they often resort to hitting and biting to get across their message.
Although the emergence of aggression can be embarrassing for parents, it‘s a problem that may be manageable. If you recently started dealing with a toddler going through aggression issues, consider trying some of the following practices:
- Intervene early. Before your toddler starts hitting playmates or you, watch for signs that this might be on the horizon. If you see your child using a toy to hit another toy, step in and explain to your child why it is not OK to hit.
- Stay calm. At the time of the incident, it’s important to keep your emotions in check, even if doing so may be difficult. If you lose your temper, your toddler may become more riled up and also realize that his or her actions gain attention from you.
- Be aware of telltale triggers. Start to look for any patterns in your toddler’s aggression. For example, does the behavior usually happen when he or she is hungry or tired? Once you are able to recognize your toddler’s triggers, you can work toward avoiding them in the future.
- Demonstrate good behavior. Toddlers are at an age where they mimic everything that people do. If you lose your temper while in your car or on the phone, you can bet that your toddler will imitate your behavior sooner or later. Be conscious of your actions when you are with your toddler.
As frustrating as this stage in a child’s life can be for a parent, it’s important to remember that it is commonplace. By handling the situation correctly, an aggressive toddler can, with time, grow out of his or her hitting-and-biting stage.