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23 Month Old Pushing, Pulling Hair Of Other Kids

by Priyanka
(NJ, USA)

Hi Annie,

I have a 23 month old boisterous son who is very active, explores tremendously through the day he spends at home with his Nanny.

Both my husband and I work full time. Our Nanny stays at home with my son and when the weather is nice they go to the park, feed the ducks near our house and do some activities together.

Over the past 1.5 weeks or so, my son has begun to push other children/toddlers, pull hair (mostly of girls) and sometimes even reach out for their face. I have noticed this happens when he is playing at an indoor play area and doesn't want to share a toy, or wants to get a toy that is in the hands of another child.

When he gets frustrated with us at home, sometimes he will lash out by throwing a toy on the floor and getting angry. Or he will reach out to bite.

We proactively stop him from hurting himself and others. We also have been trying to tell him that when he does these things, people get hurt and that if they feel hurt, they wouldn't want to play with him. We also explain how it hurts when he engages in these behaviors.

Otherwise, he is a happy, friendly, social and outgoing child. he eats well, sleeps well and is in good physical health.

I can think of a couple issues that may be going on in his life at this time that may be contributing to this terribly embarrassing and upsetting time with our son. We are from a multi-lingual family and speak 3 languages with him. Since he is at the pre-verbal stage, he may be finding it confusing to express himself.

Another possibility could be that he is teething (the 2 yr old molars). Lastly, and this might be a stretch, my son may be missing out on social interaction by not being at daycare and hence may have a lot more energy to expend/channel, that comes out through these behaviors at the play gym.

I really would appreciate some ideas on what may be going on and how I might combat/nip these behaviors at this time. I want my son to continue being happy and be able to deal with frustration without having to be aggressive.

Comments for 23 Month Old Pushing, Pulling Hair Of Other Kids

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Dealing With Agression In Toddlers - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Priyanka,
It is upsetting for parents when a child shows aggressive behaviors. However, don't be too worried, it is actually normal for his age, and to some extent you have hit the nail on the head. Not having language is incredibly frustrating at times and little kids sometimes resort to hitting or biting to get what they want.

However I don't think being multi-lingual is causing any of this. I have not heard of being exposed to various languages slowing down communication at all. In fact learning a second or third language at this age makes it easier - he simply is learning to think in all three languages and will never have to translate in his
head. Learning languages is easier under five as it is a normal part of development.

I have had extra-ordinary conversations with a three year old who speaks English, Vietnamese and French. In the SAME conversation she will speak English to me, Vietnamese to her Grandfather, and French to her Aunt, switching effortlessly between them as she spoke to each of us. It was amazing to watch and listen, there was no hesitation at all, she simply related and spoke to us all in our language. So your son has a
HUGE advantage learning all three languages.

You are dealing with it really well - removing him and explaining that we don't hurt others and we take care of our toys. Some kids are more feisty than others or get frustrated easily. You can direct him to hit a pillow when he is cross
rather than throw a toy, or go and stomp. Our feelings are important, and kids need to learn how to express themselves without hurting others or damaging things. It is better to release that energy than bottle it up, but it just takes a while for kids to practice and learn how to express it appropriately.

One thing to note here - whoever is the person on the spot is the one that deals with it. Don't bring it up again later and tell him off twice! Make sure when Nanny is reporting back to you about the day that he is not listening in or you will be contributing to making him feel bad and may well reinforce his bad behavior. You don't want him to feel shame or anger at Nanny for telling tales. He will learn much better behavior when it is dealt with at the time.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Dealing With Aggression In Toddlers - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

One thing I often do with kids (and parents!) is teach them the grumpy dance. It is a way of showing them how to deal with anger, but of course ends up being fun. Kids often don't see adults dealing with anger either - Adults often swallow it down, or else lash out at each other verbally. Or snap at the kids! So think about how he is seeing you all handle your cross feelings!

The grumpy dance is simply stomping around the room and stomping out the feelings. You say what
you are cross about - I'm cross because I didn't get enough sleep - stomp stomp stomp - I'm cross because the milk got spilt and now there is a mess - etc. Then when the energy is gone then you end up stomping for fun. The kids can all join in and yell out the things they are cross about. With your little boy not being verbal yet, you can speak his words - I'm cross because I can't make the train work, stomp stomp stomp (you can say stomp stomp too!) I'm cross because she took my car, stomp stomp stomp. Of course this soon becomes a silly game and the tension is diffused.

Sure you will feel a bit silly, but it is a great way to shift the energy and model to the child a better way of dealing with strong feelings.

Anger can be pretty scary for a small child, suddenly having this wave of frustration taking over is can be overwhelming. So learning how to let that out appropriately is a really good thing to learn. Going outside and having a BIG YELL is a good way too.

The key with this age, is acting quickly to prevent any damage or hurt, and quickly showing a better way to let off steam. You don't do it with anger, or that is showing them they are not ok to have their feelings - and you are also modeling to them using anger to dominate - which is exactly what he is doing!

You very firmly make it clear his behavior is not acceptable and he needs to come away from the child or toy for a while until he cools down.

After they have done a stomp or a yell, then return them to the game or to play with the other children. That way they get a chance to practice solving the problem - ie you help them with the toy. Or maybe play nicely with the children.

Some children do need time to quieten down, so sitting quietly reading a story or taking some deep breaths is a good idea.

Part Three Follows . . . .

Dealing With Aggression in Toddlers - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

You may be right, teething often contributes to being grumpy. If a child has a constant niggling pain, and is not sleeping well at night, then yes they are going to be less likely to cope when things get frustrating.

You mentioned that perhaps you son is missing out not going to daycare? You have a point that he many need more interaction with other children. Kids don't learn how to play together unless they are exposed to lots of different situations
with other children. But at his age, they don't play together, they play alongside each other. It is not until about two and a half - three that children even start to play coooperatively and create a game together. At this age it is all about ME.

So learning to take turns, learning to share toys or food takes a bit of practice! More so with an only child who is not seeing brothers and sisters share or play together.

However, I don't think putting him in Daycare is the answer at this age. You have done the best thing having him looked after by your Nanny, a young child needs lots of one on one attention and conversation and play, and having the
consistency of one special carer is the next best option to having Mom or Dad. There is no way at a daycare he would get much one on one attention,
they simply do not have the staff numbers.

There are lots of ways you can introduce more social times with other children by visiting friends, or maybe there is a playgroup he can visit a couple of mornings a week. Libraries often have rhyme time or story time activities and meeting other children at those kind of activities will be great for him. And of course, in the weekend visiting family and friends who have children.

I know it is difficult if our children aren't perfect in public! But it is simply a stage he is going through, and he will learn quickly what is acceptable and what not if you do it in a calm way. It is actually a good thing that he is determined enough to fight for what he wants - he is clearly a child who knows what he wants, and
will not be passive about making that happen! He is picking girls because he is probably unconsciously choosing the children who are less likely to fight back, and who he has the power over! So helping him to channel that energy into
being a leader rather than a dominator will be good. It will come in time.

He may be a fairly physical child too, who needs plenty of physical things to burn up energy. He has moved from the toddling stage of mastering walking, and now he needs physical challenges of climbing, running jumping etc. You can do a lot of it at home with chasing games and lots of rough-housing. Dads are often better at that!

Teaching him the stop-go game is good - as it is
teaching him control in a fun way. Simply it is run run run for a while and then STOP and freeze. He will get the hang of it when you do it. He will also love to be the director, making you run run and stop!

Part Four Follows . . . .

Dealing with Agggression in Toddlers - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Just enjoy and be proud of your lovely little boy, don't worry about what other people think, you are dealing with it, and don't make too big an issue out of it. He is not a horrible child, or a nasty boy, and he will have lots of friends that will love being with him. He simply is learning what is acceptable social behavior and to control strong feelings. It doesn't come naturally, we learn by trying things out and an practicing better ways of coping or relating.

It is a wonderful age, full of adventure and new things as they get more involved in the big wide world!

Have fun with him!
Annie Desantis

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