Aggressive Toddlers

QUESTION:

What do I do about my insanely aggressive toddler? She is so much more aggressive than all of my friend’s children!

Answer:

It might help to know that you are not alone. This is a very age-appropriate behavior but, as you are noticing, not at all an appropriate one.

One thing I’ve noticed with very aggressive toddlers is that they have a very acute awareness of their need for space. If someone is in their space, they will do whatever necessary to move them out of it. As these children get older, they are the ones who like to go into another room or a cuddle corner when they have too many people around, or have had too busy a day. When they feel crowded, they still get aggressive.

I would suggest you talk less and act more. During this season you will need to be vigilant. The friends I have with toddlers like this have admitted they don’t get to visit much during this season, but the effort is well worth it when they are able to let their older toddlers be away from their watchful eye without as much oversight. This is a time for one time warnings – “You may not hit” – while you move them away, and then leave if you have to. Your daughter is too young to reason, but dramatic results will get her attention. And dramatic results don’t have to hurt or be done to shame her.

Mostly, I would suggest that, when this is the biggest problem, she’s at her lowest resources and needs the most help from you in setting her space boundaries.

Do you notice any patterns? Is this mostly a problem with certain children or in certain environments? Do the children do certain things before she becomes aggressive?

Also, it often helps aggressive children to have more texture stimulation during the day. Baths really help them relax, as does increasing texture play (bean tables, sand play, etc.)

If your daughter is mostly aggressive with younger kids, then my guess is she perceives them as getting in her space and doesn’t want them touching or messing with stuff. My daughter, Fiona, is very verbal, but this is a biggie for her!

Also, are you sure your daughter is an extrovert? What you’re describing sounds more like an introvert. Sociability and enjoyment of people doesn’t determine extrovert/introvert. I have a dear friend who is totally sociable, but is one of the most intense introverts I’ve ever met! She’s really helped me understand my daughter. An introvert is someone who needs time alone to recharge. When Fiona wants to be alone, she wants to be alone. After a play group, my friend Joanne might go home and unplug the phone. Me? I’m the total extrovert and when I get alone time I either want someone to go out with me or end up on the phone. I recharge with people! In fact, the only activities I really enjoy doing alone are reading, watching television, or being on the computer. I still am getting the input of others. I don’t feel alone. If this is the case and your daughter is introverted, she’ll enjoy time around others but will need time alone. You’ll want to build more of that into her life.

As for texture play, some children are just more physical than others. When I use the word “aggressive,” I don’t mean a child who is hurtful or mean, but rather a child who is more physical in their communication. These children require more physical stimulation, and if they don’t get it through appropriate means like texture play, they will get it through pushing, hitting, etc.

Texture play is anything that touches and stimulates some part of their bodies. Baths are great because it’s water on the skin. Some kids really enjoy shaving cream–you can put a pile on the table and let your daughter do art, or you can put a pile in an empty tub and let her play with it on the tub and her skin (before you hose them off). Sand boxes, bean tables where she can run their hands through the beans, books that provide different textures, these are all helpful.

When she gets her physical needs out appropriately there will be less to get out inappropriately.