Understanding Toddler Aggression

Toddlers are in the early stages of learning to communicate verbally. They pretty much have no impulse control and are just new to the scene with social skills, so this leads to an instinctive physical response (hitting, kicking, biting, hair pulling, throwing things, etc.) to situations when they are frustrated, angry, excited, scared, or just plain ol’ tired.

Many parents wonder where their toddler picked up the behavior, not realizing that it is a normal and age appropriate reaction. Too often parents are told from other parents to spank their child to train them not to hit others, especially their siblings and friends children.

Many parents have the misconception that small children can understand forethought meaning if I get hit from my parent when I hit I will know not to hit, and if I do hit I am making a conscious decision to disobey. The prefrontal cortex, where reasoning, logic, and forethought take place, is not fully developed in toddlers and actually won’t develop fully until the mid-twenties.

Toddlers act impulsively under all circumstances because that is all they have for social skills. Remember it takes a lifetime working on social skills so we can’t expect toddlers to just get it. When they are stressed, even the small amount of self-control they may have isn’t going to stand much ground and before they know it they’ve reacted physically to their environment.

The true facts are and regularly show that a gentle approch to physical aggression is literally the only response that parents can make that won’t actually reinforce the aggression. Responding with aggression on a child, whether physically or verbally, gives them the idea that what they did wasn’t all that wrong because that’s how they get treated.

When you have a child who is acting out physically, it’s very important to remain in visual contact with them whenever they are with other children. If you can’t be right there then get creative and ask the child to help you, or have the children do two separate things while you can’t fully supervise. It’s unfair to the child and yourself to set them up for failure and then in turn they are getting in trouble for something you could have avoided.

As I’ve mentioned in some of my other post redirecting is huge. You have to remove the child from their present situation and put them in a better environment with a positive outcome. Sometimes with an aggressive toddler it can be as simple as “Johnny! Did you just see that?!” And point to something outside or on the tv or make it exciting. They can’t help to follow along. Then once the child wants to resume back to playing with another child simply revisit that we don’t hit and we need to be nice and share if we want to keep playing. 

The biggest thing is we the parents have to understand where our children are as far as stages in their lives. This hugely is knowing and understanding the development of your child’s brain. You can only expect so much from a toddler. Practice and patience is key to successfully having moments of breakthrough with your toddler. As long as you aren’t meeting their aggression with your aggression you should see these behaviors disappear as they grow and gain better social skills. 

Remember they are still building their vocabulary and are learning how to communicate with the world. It can be very frustrating for them. Think if you as an adult now couldn’t get your words out 100 percent and everything took work to make even the simplest point, you’d probably feel all their emotions and maybe even tripled! 

I know in moments of frustration with your child these things don’t just simply pop into your head, but the more you work on bettering yourself in these times, the more you will see results in your children. You are their biggest role model. So be your best you for them!

Child “First Aid” Kit

Today our family took time after school to craft out a first aid kit. Now this is not the normal first aid kit you’re thinking of. This is a board for the children with a few reference sections on it to help them get through times when they are angry with one another or they feel like their emotions are starting to escalate to a negative place. 

Each child’s name went on to the board and below their name is a list of 4 calming techniques they can use during a time of negative feelings. For instance one of my children listed singing, listening to music, drawing and writing. Another child listed reading, drawing, watching tv, and playing with toys. So the goal is for them to start making connections to how they are feeling in the present moment and then be able to reach into their “first aid” kit to be able to aid themselves back to a calm state of mind.

Also on the board there is a spot where everyone’s name is listed. This is a check in spot. When they come home from school we will check in with them and ask them on a scale of 1-10 how was their day and how is their current emotion. Today one child said they were an 8 and another said they were a 10. So this prompted me to ask why an 8 out of 10. So this child said well something happened at school today that made them really irritated and upset them a little bit. So we talked about the incident and by the end of the conversation we turned the negative feelings into positive and the child then said they felt like a 10 now!

So the whole point of the first aid kit is to get them to identify with emotions and know when to use calming techniques. The more they can see they have the power in the moment to handle their feelings and are strong enough to walk away from negative situations the more they will come out on top. We are also teaching them with the first aid kit to take care of themselves first. Once you have mastered your emotions you can handle any situation!

Thanks for reading and may you have a wonderful positive night!

Helping Your Angry Child

Regulating emotions can be difficult for any child, but those who struggle with anger can have an especially difficult time. It is our job as parents to find ways to not only help them calm down when becoming upset, but to help them learn to calm down anywhere anytime. We also need to teach them on identifying things that are triggers and what to do in those very first few moments when something gets their blood flowing.

It is important to always validate their emotions, not disregard them. If they find value and importance in something, it won’t do any good to tell them that their understanding of importance is incorrect. It’s important that they get to feel their emotions so they can learn from the experience.

Children with anger struggles will often display physical aggression as well. Providing outlets for this such as punching a pillow or squeezing a blanket will help relieve this tension. Your child might not like to feel isolated from the family or from you when upset, but a bit of space can be a good thing. Give them an area with you in sight to have them calm down. Maybe the couch or kitchen table.

Emotions are a normal part of our development, and we experience them every day. It is perfectly fine to get mad, or become angry. Any consequences that you provide for your child while they are upset should always be for the behaviors, not for the emotion. Sometimes us parents blend the two and it doesn’t help them understand that everyone gets angry and that’s ok.

Always keep a calm voice and a calm demeanor. The calmer you are, the better chance you have at the child calming down. Never match anger with anger. This teaches nothing. This will keep a viscous cycle going. Remember we parents are their biggest teachers.

Children need to feel heard, especially when upset. Eye contact helps them feel validated. Allowing them to talk about how they are feeling and validating them will help them learn from the situation. It will set them up for success the next time they are presented with an angry situation.

Here are some ways to calm children down anywhere:

Count to 5: Sometimes just simply counting slowly to 5 can give a world of difference when it comes to anger and impulsive behavior

Take deep slow breathes: This helps put the focus on breathing and will be a guarantee the child will calm down because this technique relaxes the mind and body

Place hands in pockets: This helps for children with impulsive behavior and tend to go straight for hitting. This will make them focus on keeping their hands in their pockets and will de-escalate them.

Acknowledge if it was an accident: Sometimes kids have a hard time deciding that something was an accident and wasn’t intended to make them angry. So making sure they understand this will help them calm down.

Keep a stress ball on hand to help reduce the tension and anger: When angry a stress ball really helps release some tension. If no stress ball on hand have the child squeeze a fist and release. This will provide the same results.

Distraction from what was causing anger: Sometimes you need to just redirect their focus all together and when you notice they are totally distracted and calmed down you can then revisit the situation and discuss why they felt angry and talk it out.

Give hugs: Hugs make a world of difference. Sometimes just giving a child a nice good hug will release some tension and de-escalate the situation.

Supporting Your Child Through A Bully Situation 

Since we are right around the corner from the new school year I thought I’d take a moment and write a little about Bullies. I have some kids in my home who have to deal with this situation almost to regularly. It’s really hard to watch. Kids these days are very cruel and are exposed to way more then we were in the past due to technology and other things. 

One of the very first things we teach and regularly talk about with our children is that they are NOT the real reason the bully is a bully. A kid who is regularly lashing out at children and teachers have much deeper issues then what is being seen on the surface. Generally they have home lives where they are not getting their needs met by their parents or guardians. These are also signs of possible trauma being inflicted on them and they are either repeating the behavior or taking their trauma out on other people.

Another thing in our home that we teach and use ourselves is to never match anger with anger.  This is very important for anybody to learn.  People are crazy these days and you just never know how far a situation can be taken if not handled in a good way.  So meeting a bully with the same behavior is only going to escalate the situation and make you more of a target regularly.  Yes they may be saying really mean things and may even put hands on you but if you can fully walk away from the situation without ever saying a word you will come out on top. 

Now, when a child is being physically bullied this becomes complicated. Of course we don’t want our child to be physically harmed in anyway.  We teach our children to do their best to get out of the situation without having to put their hands on anyone but if they absolutely must then do so! But this is last resort! We as parents really have to advocate at the school to make sure the school stays on top of the “no bullying” policy. I have seen many situations where the schools don’t take the bully situation as serious as they should and many kids suffer for this.  So we must raise awareness.

I had a teacher give one of my children a paper that was labeled “100 comebacks for a bully situation.”  He was excited and brought this home for me to read.  I see where the teacher was going with this, but what I wasn’t real big on is that the teacher was teaching him to rebuttal to his bullying.  As I read through these short one liner comebacks I think I only liked one of them lol. As much as the teacher thought this would help, these comebacks would only egg the bully on more! 

Sometimes standing up for yourself is simply not saying anything at all.  Standing up for yourself is being able to remain cool, calm and collected.  Standing up for yourself is not letting anger get the best of you.  Teaching your children to master their emotions and behavior is key to them being able to handle a bully.  Our society unfortunately teaches us that we are badass If we are loud and get in peoples faces and get that last word or hit in. Well in true reality the badass ones are the ones who walk away and give no fuel to the fire. The badass ones are the ones who always keep a level head. 

So that being said it’s not about the bully, it’s about teaching our children how to master their emotions in the moment dealing with the bully. 

Helping A Child Who Has Anxiety

For many of us foster parents we tend to see anxiety in our kids pretty often.  For some of our kids this can really stop a lot of family outings in their tracks.  A lot of these children get comfortable in this perfect little bubble they make for themselves and they have no intention of breaking it! 

Over the last so many years we have seen well, I’d like to say it all but that would not be true as we tend to get these pop up surprise behaviors lol.  But all in all I can say we’ve dealt with this subject a bit and I can share with you what has worked for our family.  If you have an anxious child maybe this can help you a bit.

Letting a child know that you are here for them and that they are safe and the environment you are providing is safe as well is the first step.  Anxiety has a way of making things look and feel scarier than when we are not feeling worried. Just simply telling them you are here and they are safe can comfort them when your child is feeling out of control, especially if they are at the peak of their worry.  They need to know they are not alone through this scary time.

The second and another very important step is to have them take full deep breaths. If they are having a hard time doing so breath with them! Everyone can benefit from slow deep breathing. Verbalize what you are doing and how it makes you feel. Some people hold their children close so they can feel the rise and fall of their chest as they breathe. This is very soothing and calming for them. 

Once you come to a calming state acknowledge your child’s fear without making it frightening.  Let them know that you can feel what they feel.  Again reassure them that you are here for them and they are safe.  Don’t leave them until they have fully processed through their anxiety attack.

Instead of assuming that you know what your child needs, give them an opportunity to tell you if they can. If they still can’t tell you what they may need from you ask them some simple questions like, “would you like a hug?” “Would you like to take a walk?” “Would you like to put on your favorite song?” Don’t just do things without their approval because this could send them back to an anxious state.  It’s all about them being able to trust you through their fears. 

Empathy is huge when it comes to a child’s behavior.  We all just want to be understood.  Think about you as an adult, when you are scared, mad or sad you just want to be heard and feel that your emotions are being acknowledged.  

Having something like a stress ball around through all of this can help them have some emotional relief. Buy a ball, keep play dough nearby or make your own homemade stress ball by filling a balloon with flour or rice. One of our children really loves the play dough as another likes the actual stress ball. But whatever gives them relief can really help!

I hope some of this information helps you in some way.  Anxiety can be a really scary thing especially if you feel you are all alone. Sometimes if we have the right person to calm us we slowly build the confidence to fight our anxiety.  Once we feel confident in ourselves we have now accomplished having one of the biggest tools in our pocket to be able to handle anxiety on our own. So teaching our children through these times with a calm and assuring environment is sure to help them gain confidence and see warning signs or triggers of possible anxiety creeping up. 

For some people who can recognize early feelings of anxiety they can use their calming methods and beat it all together.  It just takes the right people and environment to help someone with anxiety.

Compassion, Empathy & Love can heal a lot of things in life ❤️.

Your Child’s Behavior and What It Might Be Telling You

Most children have a hard time communicating their needs to us.  They probably don’t even realize what they are lacking but all we know is this can turn into behavioral issues.  Here is a basic list to look at to see what could be going on if you are having this problem.  It’s really important that we realize that a child doesn’t just act out there is always deeper meaning.

  • If your child is having issues listening, this could mean that their wants are not being acknowledged.
  • If your child is being disrespectful to you, they are lacking the connection to you.
  • Kids who fight with their siblings often are again fighting for your attention and feeling disconnected from you.
  • Kids who are controlling and very assertive are worried about their needs not being met.
  • Kids who rebel tend to feel powerless and and need to feel that they are controlling some aspect of their environment 
  • Kids who whine a lot more then average are showing you that they are having a hard time coping with the situation or environment and need to feel that they are being acknowledged and that everything is ok.

So those are just some basic behaviors which can really give you clear insight of what’s going on.  Being a parent isn’t about you it’s about the children.  We all have needs that have to be met or we aren’t happy campers.  But we as parents are the ones who have to pay attention and meet the needs of our children.  Yes some kids are way more needy than others but having yourself one step ahead of them is the key aspect.

    Thanks for reading! Hope you have a wonderful positive parenting night!