Aggressiveness is part of the normal development of children. It is also relatively common among toddlers. To control their aggression, they need the active help of their parents.
Aggression before 3 years
How to intervene with an aggressive child who plays with other children.
Aggressive behaviors are common between 18 months and 3 years. At this age, the child does not control his desires well and he acts without thinking. It is often an impulse or lack of self-control that is at the root of aggression and not the desire to hurt someone.
The toddler tends to bicker to get the things he wants or keep them in his possession. For example, if he sees a toy that attracts him, he takes it, even if he is in the hands of another child. This situation can also lead to an aggressive reaction in the child who gets his toy.
The first quibbles that a toddler experiences are therefore what is called possession conflicts. These conflicts occur when two children want the same toy or when they want the attention of the same person. And since they do not speak very well, they hit, push or bite instead of saying, “It’s mine” or “It’s my turn.” The child is also used to his parents, who usually act fairly predictably. He does not always understand why things do not happen all the time as he wants with other children.
In addition to lacking words to say what he’s living and what he wants, the child can hurt others because he can not express his emotions with words. Learning to control your emotions is not easy. The access anger is very common and is sometimes accompanied by aggression.
Physical aggression (eg biting, hitting or pushing) increases and usually peaks between the second and third birthdays. At about age 3, aggressive behavior begins to decline, as the toddler develops more and more his language and social skills (eg, listening to others, waiting for his turn, sharing, etc.).
Your child is hurting, what to do?
If your child hurts himself voluntarily, for example, he bangs his head on the ground, grafts himself or bites himself, stop him and tell him that his behavior is not acceptable. Then see with him what annoyed him and help him put words to his emotions.
Aggression after 3 years
As the child grows, he shows less and less physical aggression, mainly because the parts of the brain that inhibit aggression are better developed.
From the age of 3, preschoolers think more and their language is more developed. This is very useful to him to improve his social skills. He appreciates contacts with his peers and gradually acquires the notion of sharing. But he remains egocentric and it is still difficult for him to face refusals.
With his reasoning and communication skills, he can argue, negotiate or even threaten when he wants something. The aggression observed at this age is then more verbal than physical. However, it is also at this age that the child becomes more aware of the impact of his actions. He is able to understand that he was able to hurt another child by his words, to acknowledge his wrongs and to apologize. He also has greater self-control over his aggressive gestures. Thus, it comes less often to the shots than a toddler of fewer than 3 years.
Why does a child engage in aggressive behavior?
Common reasons for a child to engage in aggressive behavior include:
- He mimics the aggressive behavior he sees with other children or adults.
- He receives little attention or his emotional needs are not taken into consideration. He is less inclined to worry about the emotions experienced by others. Aggressiveness can also be a way for him to get attention.
- He refuses to share.
- He regularly witnesses family arguments, which suggests that aggression is a normal reaction.
He is worried about the arrival of a new baby, a separation, an argument or a mourning. He tries to adapt to changes, which makes him more tired and irritable.
- He was very stimulated or over-excited (eg after a long period of active play or a children’s party). He needs to be alone to calm down or rest.
- He is punished regularly or severely, which can increase his aggression reactions.
- He always has the last word when he is aggressive, which makes him believe that his hostile behaviors are tolerated and play in his favor.
How to intervene?
Many children who exhibit aggressive behavior need to receive a lot of attention from their parents and caregivers to learn how to control themselves. Patience is essential because they need time to fully understand what is acceptable and what is not.
Here’s how you can intervene when your child is aggressive.
By showing your child to control his or her momentum and emotions, you will see his aggressive behavior decrease.
Stay calm and firm, even if it’s difficult. Do not attack your toddler physically or verbally. Avoid phrases like “you’re mean” or “you’re a baby” because they hurt your child’s self – esteem.
Tell him that his behavior is not acceptable by saying, for example: “No, you do not shove your friend. It hurts him. ”
Give attention to the injured child to comfort him. Your toddler understands that hurting is not a good way to get attention.
Explain to your child the consequences of his actions. Say, for example, “Do you remember when Juliet hit you? It hurt you. You cried. It’s the same for Mathis, it hurt him! ”
Help your toddler say what he wants with simple words. Show him to say, “It’s mine” or “No, I do not want to. This simple approach often reduces the aggression of many children.
Describe how he feels to help him put words on his emotions and that he knows you understand him. Say, for example: “Are you angry because you can not play with the truck? You can say, “I’m sorry,” or “I see you’re angry because I did not let you eat what you wanted. ”
Make sure that no one gives inappropriate attention to aggressive behavior (eg laughter).
Use a consequence that promotes learning by always adding a short explanation. Use the repair (eg, comforting the friend) or removal in a neutral place (a chair or walking a staircase). Allow one minute of withdrawal per year of age (eg 2 minutes of withdrawal for a 2-year-old child).
Give him a hug when the situation is settled.
Try to understand why he is aggressive. Is this a way for him to assert his autonomy? A frustration reaction? Is he aggressive because the children around him are?
When to ask for help
Aggressive behaviors usually begin to decrease from 3 years old. At this age, children control their emotions better and they learn to express in words what they want to say. It is important to get help if, after 3 years, your child has still not learned to control his emotions and aggression or if he seems indifferent to the emotions of others. It is easier to change the tendency to have an aggressive behavior of a toddler than that of an older child. Discuss the situation with your child’s doctor or contact your CLSC.
What if your child is aggrieved at daycare?
If your toddler gets kicked or bitten at the daycare, it is not advisable for you to go directly to the child who has hurt yours or his parents. It is the responsibility of the educator and parents of this child to act. You can, however, talk to the educator about setting up ways for aggressive actions to decrease. You can also help your child say how he feels and teach him to say, “No, it hurts” or “I’m sad. ”
How to prevent aggression?
Establish the rule: “We do not hurt others. For most children, being nice to friends, pets, and people, in general, is something that needs to be learned.
Be a good role model yourself by controlling your own reactions of frustration. Whenever possible, explain how you feel and indicate different ways to react without aggression.
Show your child how he can ask for what he wants. Tell him, “You can ask for the toy” or “You can reach out if you want the toy. ”
Remind your child often of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. It may be discouraging to always have to repeat the same thing, but some toddlers need these many repetitions to remember the rules. If, for example, you are going to the park, remind him that it is important to wait for his turn to slip and not push to pass in front of the others who line up.
Read together stories about anger or aggressive behavior. Then discuss the emotions felt by the characters and how they might control them. Remind your child of situations where he, too, felt the same emotions and how he reacted. Then try to find ways to improve his reactions so that he does not engage in aggressive behavior the next time he experiences these emotions.
Build places where your child can play without you having to constantly say “Do not touch it” and “Do not do that”. Always being told “no” is frustrating for your child and can make him angry. In situations where you must lay a security ban, direct him to a permitted activity. Say, for example, “No, you can not play in the cabinet under the sink, it’s dangerous. By cons, you can play with the plastic plates of this cabinet. He will feel less frustration.
Organize play sessions with other children in your presence to help your toddler cope more positively with any frustrating experience and develop sensitivity to others. Make him understand the emotions his behavior causes in others (eg, pain, joy). Then, encourage him to express his emotions verbally.
Invent scenarios where people feel frustrated, for example: “Jeanne was playing ball when Samuel came in and took his ball. Then, ask your child to imagine the following: “What did Jeanne do next, according to you? Determine together how each character in the story can control the emotions that this situation makes him live. Playing pretend also allows preschoolers to experience different emotions, including anger.
Compliment your child when he controls his behavior. A toddler with aggressive tendencies often spends a lot of time without receiving compliments. Congratulations measured motivate your child to please you.
If your child is over 3 years old, you can use a motivational chart to reduce aggressive behavior.
The Battle Games are normal in young children. However, watch these games closely so that they do not reach the stage where one of the players is injured. These scrums help preschoolers understand the limits of their strength and social skills and when to stop. Parents play a very important role in helping them master the subtle difference between very physical games and aggression.