Aggressive behavior in your toddler 

Nobody wants an aggressive child. And everyone is surprised when their sweet little toddler suddenly hit someone or pulls someone’s hair. Yet aggression is quite normal for toddlers. The peak age when parents notice their toddler exhibiting aggressive behavior is around 2 years old. This type of aggression does not tell you that your toddler will actually become violent later on in life.

In the eyes of a toddler, is what we call aggression nothing more than simply (wanting to) stop something. He doesn’t want to do something? He will hit it. Does a child do something he doesn’t like/approve of? Then he will hit that child or pulls his hair. A method that surely works, in the sense that the message gets across. Of course, there are better ways. It’s up to you to clarify that you won’t allow it.

Correcting aggressive behavior

Your toddler can learn rules from fifteen months old (“leap of principles“). By countering especially those first expressions of aggression, you prevent huge spikes of aggression later on. A hand in the air, indicating that your toddler wants to hit you but does not touch you, is enough to correct him. After all, threatening to hit is also not tolerable.

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For many parents, this typical toddler “aggression” thing is a difficult one. On the one hand, it is normal; on the other hand, you should not tolerate it. Punishing in an illogical way only makes the aggression worse. If he hits someone, then take your toddler away from that person. Of course, briefly explain to him that this is not allowed and why it’s not allowed, but do not engage in endless conversations. ‘You can’t hit someone, it hurts. That’s why you need to go and play somewhere else, so the child can continue playing’. The consequence has to be logical.

Doing it once is enough!

The often-heard “three-time-warning rule” is nonsense. If your child regularly pulls the plants out of the containers and you tell him every day that this is not allowed, he really doesn’t need to be warned three times. He already knows that! He sees it differently: I can do it three times every day until I am stopped! With aggressive behavior, “one-trial-learning” applies.

Een keer fout doen, betekent meteen zeggen dat het niet mag en de bijbehorende consequentie uitvoeren. Zo maak je het in één keer duidelijk: dit tolereer ik niet. Een dreumes hoef je echter nog niet op de gang te zetten. Een paar meter verplaatsen is genoeg. Zit jij met een vriendin te kletsen en eist je uk aandacht door een klap? Dan pak je hem meteen op, zet je hem een paar meter verder neer en zeg je: ‘Je mag me niet slaan. Als je dat doet, wil ik niet dat je naast me staat.’ Onthoud dit: als je het agressieve gedrag van je dreumes nu de kop indrukt, bespaart je dat zeer heftige agressieve uitspattingen in de peuterjaren!

If your toddler does something wrong once means immediately saying it is not allowed and carrying out the corresponding consequence. This way you make it clear at once: I do not tolerate this. You don’t have to let your toddler stand in the corner. Moving him a few meters is enough. 

Are you chatting with a friend and your child demands attention by hitting you? Then immediately pick him up, put him down a few feet away, and say, “You can’t hit me. If you do, I don’t want you standing next to me.’ 

Remember this: quelling your toddler’s aggressive behavior now will save you from very violent aggressive outbursts in the preschooler years!

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