Your toddler may be showing signs of aggression from an early age. This seem very worrying and could be a cause for concern. Toddler aggression when to worry questions is very widespread amongst parents, especially new ones.
Some forms of aggressive behaviour and play are very healthy and normal for toddlers who are seeking expression and testing boundaries. Other forms are very abrupt and excessive. It is these forms of behaviour that need to be monitored and effectively reduced.
Toddler Aggression When To Worry: Developmental Milestones
Toddlers undergo various milestones through ages 1 to 5 and each developmental milestone carries with it a new challenge. These challenges push your toddler outside of their comfort zone and cause friction and frustration.
It is this consistent learning, relearning and fine-tuning that can cause disruptive behaviour and may make coping with a toddler very stressful.
Problems can also occur when your toddler gets stuck in an adverse behavioural pattern, (like shouting, screaming or hitting) and you are unable to change it.
Importantly, your toddler will show aggression if they are not feeling that their way of seeing the world is congruent with what they have learnt about it.
Or simply put if they are unable to communicate with you the changing elements around them they will seek to express themselves in other ways.
This form of expression is linked to disruptive and negative behaviour as your toddler is unable to communicate to you exactly how they are feeling and what they are thinking.
It is in this grey area that many toddlers show aggression towards you, others and even themselves.
Is Some Aggression OK?
Does your toddler hit other children or you?
Does your toddler break, smash and hit things around the house on purpose?
Do they kick, bite or show any other physical aggression towards others?
Aggressive behaviour is a part of healthy emotional and behavioural development. However, if this behaviour is too frequent or too harsh consisting of constant rounds of extreme aggression then this is cause for concern.
Having an aggressive 2 year old or aggressive 3 year old can be overwhelming but most aggression is a form of expression.
As your child gets better at expressing themselves, through vocabulary and language improvements, they should feel less of an urge to lash out to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Here they will learn that it is easier to “ask for a toy” then “yank it out of their friend’s hand”.
If your child is still showing extreme aggression with no signs of slowing down for more then 6 months you may need to seek professional counselling or guidance.
Does your child witness aggressive behaviour frequently? At home or at a playgroup?
Do they consistency watch aggressive TV or Games?
Do they lash in reaction to someone else lashing out on them?
These are sure-fire ways to increase the likelihood of disruptive and aggressive behaviours in toddlers. If they see it as an acceptable way to communicate and it goes unpunished or unchallenged then your toddler will resort to aggression to solve their problems.
Toddlers learn from their primary environments first. If you find that there is aggression (even from other children) then limit your toddlers’ interaction at these places.
Younger toddlers can learn aggression from older children who have yet to curb their own behaviour and are expressing aggression themselves.
Children learn very quickly from other children who are older and role models. Extreme aggression in 3 year old and a 3 year old kicking and hitting parents will all have a root cause that includes environmental factors
Watch over your toddlers play dates and ensure any aggression is dealt with swiftly and firmly to stop the behaviour spreading.
Steps To Reduce Aggression
Are you curbing aggression effectively at home?
Are you punishing aggressive behaviour firmly enough or are you leaving it unchecked?
Can you figure out a routine of aggression?
When your toddler is aggressive towards you at home the best way to ensure the aggression is discipline is to first get down to your child’s level.
Tell them, in no uncertain terms, that “This behaviour will not be accepted” and that if they do it again “there will be a consequence.” Use more serious consequences to remind them of the severity of their actions.
You will need to find one thing that your toddler really dislikes and then press down on that. Be stern and swift and leave no room for negotiation.
Punishments and Consequences
If the rules are broken then follow through with your punishment or consequence no matter how busy you are. If you fail to consistently punish this behaviour it will continue to re-occur at home.
Remind your child that they will not get any attention from you for this behaviour and ignore there attempts to try to persuade you.
Toddler aggression when to worry concerns are linked to extreme emotional frustration. These emotions are often aimed at parents.
Aggressive acts such as biting or hitting a parent is a way of expressing difficult emotions like anger or jealousy.
Most parents find it hard to cope with the extreme nature of the behaviour as it is directed at them and can be very hurtful. The dilemma here is your toddler is old enough to recite the rule back to you, ‘Don’t bang the mirror’ but they don’t yet have the self-control to stop themselves doing it.
It’s a developmental nightmare and is the primary reason behind your toddler’s aggression.
Toddler Aggression When To Worry: Further Advice
Have you recently moved house or changed job?
Have you had a new addition to the family?
Has there been a death in the family or a breakup?
Children react aggressively to big life changes and aggression is a way for them to try to cope with the complicated emotional and behavioural challenges. Aggressive babies seldom act out for no reason and big life changes act as a catalyst for disruptive behaviour.
Does your child have a natural tendency to explore and seek out experiences or are they more reserved and prefer to wait and let the experiences come to them?
Your child temperament can have a big effect on the emotional and behavioural experiences. If a child is overstimulated they can lash out as a sign of fear or a way to cope. ‘
Also, your child being under-stimulated can cause disruptive behaviour as their minds are not being challenged enough for it to fulfil its sensory and cognitive needs.
Toddler Aggression When To Worry: Last Step
If your toddler is progressively getting worse and continues to:
- Bite, kick, scream and yell at others excessively,
- Throw violent uncontrollable temper tantrums about every small thing,
- Hit’s themselves or others all the time,
- find difficulty playing with other children without constant disruptive behaviour,
It may be time to seek professional help from a paediatrician. It’s always advisable to seek an expert opinion if you feel like the behaviour is getting worse.