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Aggressive Behaviour in Toddlers

Hitting, Biting, Kicking and Fighting

Most young children will occasionally bite, hit or push another child.  Toddlers are also curious and may not understand that biting or pulling hair hurts.  This doesn’t necessarily mean your child is going to grow up to be aggressive.  Here are some suggestions for how you can teach your child that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable:

  • Don’t hit, bit or kick back.  This could have the opposite effect of making your child think that it’s ok to do this.  Instead, make it clear that what they are doing hurts, and that you will not allow it.
  • Take them out of the situation.  If you are with other children, say you will leave, or ask the other children to leave, unless your child’s behaviour improves – you will have to carry it out for this approach to work!
  • Put your child in another room.  If you are at home, try putting your child in another room (check that it’s safe for them) for a short period.
  • Talk.  Children often go through patches of insecurity or upset and let their feelings out by being aggressive.  Finding out what is worrying them is the first step to being able to help.
  • Show them you love them, but not their behaviour.  Children behaving aggressively are not always easy to love.  But extra love may be what is needed.
  • Help your child let their feelings out some other way.  Find a big space, and encourage your child to run and shout.  Just letting your child know that your recognise their feelings will make it easier for them to express themselves without hurting anyone else.  You could try saying things like, ‘I know you are feeling angry about...’.  As well as recognising the feeling, it helps them to label and think about their own feelings.’
  • Ask an expert.  If you are seriously concerned about your child’s behaviour, talk to your GP.

 (Taken from the NHS ‘Birth to Five’ book)