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The toddler years can be the cutest and most lovable time for children. They are funny, cute, lovable, and adorable. Yet, the toddler years can also be the most frustrating time for parents because toddlers tend to act on instinct and emotion, and sometimes the result can be aggression. They may just grab something they want, they may hit or bite, or they may even throw things or break things. Knowing the basis behind those kinds of aggression and knowing how to respond to stop it is essential at that age.

Reasons for Aggression in Toddlers

Limited language skills and development are major contributing factors of aggression at this age. Toddlers are feeling strong emotions that they do not yet fully know how to verbalize or express. They are also exploring their environment for the first time and can be easily overwhelmed or frustrated. Additionally, they have not yet fully developed empathy for others. Emotions that cannot be verbalized may, instead, be demonstrated physically.

Biology may also play a role in aggression. Multiple factors from environmental influences to medications to neurological disorders such as autism can be at the root of acting out or being aggressive. Depression in young children could also be a factor. If toddlers seem to display an elevated amount of aggression and typical parenting strategies do not work, it could be important to consult with a medical professional, such as a pediatrician.

Aggression can also be a learned behavior. Television, other children a child has contact with, parents and other adults can expose toddlers to model for toddlers to aggression. Toddlers are learning through watching and absorbing everything in their environment. They mimic others and copy what they see. It is extremely important to make sure that they are not observing any aggression.

Lastly, reinforcement can also play a big role in aggression. For example, even the best parents may be thrilled to have some downtime when a toddler is playing nicely but may be forced to respond when the child misbehaves. Attending to problem behaviors more than good behaviors will often reinforce poor behavior. Kids cannot get too much attention at that age. However, the attention given to misbehaviors should be far less than the attention given to good behaviors.

How to Stop Aggression in Toddlers

Modeling non-aggressive responses is essential. It gives the right example to children and also helps to teach problem-solving skills at a young age. It shows children from a young age that it is okay to get angry or frustrated; however, it is not okay to demonstrate those feelings in ways that are aggressive.

If a toddler channels their feelings in the act of aggression, it is a teachable moment. Teaching should not take place when they are very emotional, but, immediately when they have calmed down, they should be shown alternatives. Toddlers will be too young to simply be told about how they should have responded. Instead, show them by modeling the preferred action as a role play.

Reinforce positive social behaviors. Toddlers are learning through discovery and life experience. They are looking to their surroundings, for example, but may not yet be able to differentiate between what is appropriate and what is not. It is important to reinforce good behaviors with praise, hugs, and attention. This is one of the main reasons I always apologize to my children.

Toddlers may need some time-out to calm down when frustrated. They are so active they can easily get wound up. A time-out allows time to calm down. Distracting to something else or redirecting, is another way to give them time away from the source of frustration.

While not always easy, there are multiple ways to deal with aggression in your little ones in a positive manner. These methods are definitely not one size fits all and you will have to test and tweak to see what works for you and your child.

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