Poor impulse control and lack of verbal skills can cause toddlers to hit, kick, bite, spit, and throw things at others. Unfortunately, some degree of aggressiveness is a normal part of toddler development; it is often how they deal with stress and anger that can stem from feelings of frustration, fear, disappointment, jealousy, low self-esteem, and sadness.
These types of feeling can be triggered by the loss of a loved one, divorce, a new baby in the house, or a recent move. Toddlers may also exhibit aggressive behavior when they are hungry, tired, crowded, or exposed to violent environments. Aggressive behavior has to be dealt with immediately; otherwise, it can signal to children that hurting others is acceptable. Here are some steps you can take in your childcare classroom to manage aggressive behavior in toddlers.
Young children learn from observing and mimicking adult behavior. So when a toddler in your class whacks his friend with a toy, don’t lose your cool. Screaming and yelling will only make the situation worse, and set a bad example for the child to follow in the future.
Set Clear Limits and Be Consistent
When a toddler hurts another child, immediately remove him from the situation. Make eye contact with the child, and explain briefly that it’s alright for him to feel angry, but hurting others is not an acceptable way to deal with it. Help the offending toddler learn to use his words to express how he feels. Even if the child doesn’t understand immediately, be consistent. Eventually he’ll be ready to communicate with language instead of his fists.
Reinforce Positive Behavior
Let children know you notice and appreciate their good behavior. For example, if one of the kids in your class helps a child up when he falls, you can say, “Sally, it was kind of you to help John off the ground when he fell.” The more positive reinforcement you offer, the more likely kids are to continue desirable behaviors.
Provide Appropriate Alternatives to Aggression
If kids are really having a hard time dealing with their angry feelings, offer them appropriate alternatives to aggression such as kneading play dough, punching a pillow, jumping up and down, tossing beanbags in a safe direction, playing with puppets, or doing sensory activities such as water play.
Use Books to Help Toddlers Understand Anger
Reading books is an ideal way to help children understand that anger is a normal emotion because storybook characters are often relatable to children. Some great books about anger include It’s Mine!<%