Watching your toddler hitting others can be alarming as well as embarrassing. Check out our useful tips on how to eliminate aggressive behaviour.
While our toddlers do lots of cute and adorable things, hitting and biting isn’t on that list. Hitting is quite common amongst toddlers, although that doesn’t mean that such behaviour should go unrecognised.
Not only is it embarrassing for you as a parent, it can land your baby boy in problems if he continuously hits and bites other children—such as having to be isolated in nursery.
There are dos and don’ts when it comes to tackling aggression in your toddler. We’ve put together some advice to help control your toddler hitting, throwing things and biting so you can work towards nipping it in the bud before it becomes a larger issue.
Why Do Toddlers Hit, Bite and Throw Tantrums?
Your baby boy is learning a lot in his early years, including different ways to express his emotions. There are some different reasons as to why you may witness your toddler hitting and generally acting aggressively.
Children often put things in their mouths as a way of exploring what they are. However, they might be munching on things because they’re teething.
Teething is a common reason as to why your toddler may be biting, as he tries to understand things and removes some pressure on his gums. This phase will pass, and some Calpol might help relieve them.
If your baby boy knows that by hitting parents he’ll get a reaction out of you, he may continue to do it more. Aggressive behaviour is a way that toddlers know they can get your attention easily, as they know you’ll stop what you’re doing to tend to them.
Toddlers don’t always know how to express their frustration or anger at something, and so they may result in portraying aggression instead. They don’t have a wide vocabulary range either, so it will be frustrating that your baby boy can’t explain what he wants or that you don’t understand him.
Is It a Boy Thing?
There is evidence to suggest that boys display more aggressive behaviour than girls, starting from a very young age. This doesn’t mean that boys are always the naughtiest amongst friends, but it is more likely that your son will get into trouble for hitting before your friend’s daughter.
While there isn’t enough evidence to explain why this is, we can assume that it is due to the difference in hormones that each sex has.
What Should I Do?
Experiencing your toddler hitting isn’t nice, and it needs to be dealt with quickly and effectively to stop it from recurring.
Don’t shout at him, hit or bite him back. This doesn’t reinforce positive behaviour and instead builds grounds for your son to become scared of you. Shouting at him will aggravate him further, which could result in more aggression.
Explain to him that what he has done is not acceptable, and be firm with him. Don’t raise your voice, however, and make sure you speak to him at eye level so that he better understands you.
Deal Out Logical Consequences
If your toddler hits a child in the play area, pull him out immediately and put him into time-out. Explain that he can return once he plays nicely with the other children and that if he hits again then he won’t be allowed to go back.
Children may not understand full lectures, so refrain from this. They do understand the consequences of their actions, however, providing you deal out the consequence immediately upon the bad behaviour taking place.
It’s vital that you are consistent in dealing punishments to your son, so that he understands that the behaviour will result in poor consequences every time. If you don’t, he won’t take you seriously and boundaries will be blurred so he won’t know whether he is doing wrong or if mummy is just having a bad day.
Praise Good Behaviour
As well as punishing him for bad behaviour, be sure to praise him for good behaviour too. When you see him sharing, playing nicely or taking it in turns with another child on the swing—explain that this is a great way to interact with other children and praise him for it.
Your son needs to recognise the difference between acceptable behaviours and actions and those which are not. By praising him for good behaviour, he learns to continue doing this because he wants a positive response from you.
Teach Different Responses
Explain to your son that feelings of anger, frustration and sadness are normal; however, hitting is not. If he gets angry with his friend, tell him to walk away from him instead of hitting him. If he is frustrated by something, instead of responding with aggression he should ask an adult for help.
Let him see how you respond appropriately to situations, so that he learns alternative ways to channel his frustrations from you.
Teach your baby boy to say sorry. He should always apologise for hurting someone else.
Be Mindful of Screen Time
There is research to suggest that regular viewing of aggression and violence on television results in children mimicking the same behaviours. Be mindful of what your son is watching on TV or what they have access to on their tablet.
Consider putting parental locks on specific channels or websites to prevent your son from seeing graphic and inappropriate images on the screen.
Keep Him Active
Your baby boy may bite and hit out of boredom, and so keeping him active allows him to channel his energy into something positive. Ensure he gets plenty of exercise and has a chance to run around to burn off all that built-up energy.
When Does Toddler Hitting Become a Problem?
Hitting and biting should become less frequent by the time your child reaches the age of 3 years old. If this isn’t the case or he does any of the following, consider speaking to your GP for some advice:
- He scares other children and they’re frightened of playing with him.
- Efforts to minimise his behaviour seem to be having little or no effect.
- He is consistently aggressive, over a long period of time.
- He purposely attacks people, wanting to cause harm.
While aggressive behaviour is common among toddlers, it could be a symptom of an underlying condition. Your GP will be able to further assess your child and may send him for a psychological assessment if necessary.