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AGGRESSION IN YOUNG KIDS

Babies are almost always sweet and lovable. Maybe this is why parents freak when a previously good baby morphs into a child who shows unmistakable signs of aggression.

Where did this mean kid come from?

Aggressive behavior in 2-year-olds can include biting, scratching, hair pulling, grabbing toys, hitting, and poking at eyes. This sort of behavior is common among young humans and is part of normal developmental behavior.

All 2-year-olds are egocentric which means they think only of themselves. And things can sometimes be more important than people so that when another child grabs a toy, watch out! The child who loses the possession will act aggressively toward the grabber.

Two-year-old children have yet to learn how to take turns. They have no manners, lack social conventions, and have not figured out why sharing is desirable. Play with other children can be hampered because these children have not developed communication skills. Peaceful interaction depends on being able to say what you want and understand the other person’s wants.

Some hurtful behavior is exploratory. Young children as they are learning motor skills sometimes try out behaviors. What would it be like to bite Mommy’s nose? What happens if I scratch Grandma?

Handling hurtful behavior like biting or scratching or hair pulling, even if it seems merely exploratory, is always the same. Say, “No! Scratching hurts!” and remove the child from the scene so the behavior cannot continue. You can hold 2-year-olds away from you so that their hands cannot reach you. You can also put them in their crib or room.

Parents tend to overreact to aggressive behavior in young children for two reasons: 1) they don’t know or fully understand that the behavior is part of normal development and 2) they worry that aggressive behavior will go on forever or lead to social deviancy in later life. Not true!

But parents do have an important parenting task. They must teach the child that aggressive behavior is NOT ACCEPTABLE TODAY, TOMORROW, OR EVER. You do this by being FIRM and CONSISTENT. You act promptly with stern firmness to remove the child from those that have been attacked or injured. You do this every time the child hits or kicks or bites. This is a NON-NEGOTIABLE matter. The lesson to teach: when you hurt people, you can’t be around people.

In addition to ALWAYS reacting to hurtful behavior in the same way, parents can also try to PREVENT aggressive behavior in young children.

o Don’t let the child get overtired or overhungry. Regular routines like naps and snacks can work wonders.

o Try to avoid frustration in the child’s life. Common sources of frustration include rushing the child. Plan ahead and leave plenty of time. Give warnings.

o Give children as many choices as possible. Let them decide what to wear and which cereal to eat.

o Try to say, “No!” as infrequently as possible. I don’t mean you should allow kids to do what they want all the time but try to turn responses around (“We can go to the park after lunch.” instead of “We can’t go to the park because lunch is ready.”).

o Work with young children on language acquisition. Name everything. Point out things in books and ask them to do the same. Be sure to give children a name for strong feelings. (“You are angry because I said you couldn’t play with my pocketbook.”)

Yes aggression is a normal human response, but controlling our aggressive impulses is a hallmark of maturity. So help your kids grow up by teaching them this important lesson.

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