There are two behaviours that are almost guaranteed to get you doubting your talents as a parent - and questioning the genes your child has inherited!
Finding out that your pre-schooler has hit another child, or bitten them.
There’s a wide variation among children, but both behaviours are considered normal in very young children. Neither behaviour has anything to do with a child’s parenting (or gene pool), and neither means the child is headed for a lifetime of thuggery and incarceration.
And, both behaviours have similar origins.
Like the rest of us, toddlers get bored, hungry, tired, exasperated and overwhelmed. The difference is, toddlers lack the verbal skills to communicate and explain these emotions. Their vocabulary just isn’t developed enough. They still have limited self-control and they’re just beginning to learn important skills like waiting, sharing, empathy and turn-taking. When a toddler is surrounded by other children jostling and grabbing, not listening, and simply invading each other’s space; for them to not react requires impulse control, which they also won’t fully master until they’re older.
Toddlers rely heavily on their actions to ‘tell’ others what they’re thinking and feeling. They strike back in disagreement. They use their body (or a toy truck!) instead of their vocabulary. Hitting usually peaks around age two, a time when toddlers have very strong feelings but are not yet able to use language effectively to express themselves.
It’s an age when their emotion trumps their thinking skills.
When your child is aggressive, it’s an important sign that they’re out of control and need help to calm down. Staying calm yourself will help your child settle more quickly. Thinking through the following questions can help you see patterns and figure out what the underlying reason for your child’s behaviour might be:
- Where is the behaviour happening?
- What about the environment (too crowded, bright, overwhelming, etc.)?
- Is the behaviour directed towards one specific person or group?
- When does the behaviour usually happen?
- What happened right before?
- Has there been a recent change in their world that’s making them feel upset, out of control, sad, or less safe and secure?
When you understand the reasons behind your toddler’s need to hit (there’s always a reason), and respect what’s happening in their world, you’re better equipped to help them through this challenging stage.
They’ll soon out-grow it.