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Physical aggression in toddler aged 5

by James
(Australia)

There is some kind of physical aggression every day - mainly my 5yo towards other members of the family. I do not parent conventionally - do not use shouting, smacking, time-outs, shaming etc. I talk with my child when she is regulated and she knows that hitting hurts. She has come up with her own strategies for in the moment angries but then in the moment it is as if she cannot control her response of physical aggression. Do you have any creative ideas of how to deal with this and keep EVERYONE safe.

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Ideas Handling Agression in Toddlers - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi James,

It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your children and it is always very hard when kids display behavior that hurts other people.

Learning to control responses in the heat of the moment is one of the hardest skills to master.

Here's some questions or ideas you could explore to see if you can work out why she is being aggressive.

Is she playing out frustrations and anger in her interactions because she feels dis-empowered in other areas? Is she dealing with changes that have become a bit overwhelming? Some children when they start school or a new pre-school get overwhelmed and act out as a way of dealing with their frustrations. Schools/pre-schools often have a lot more rules and regulations than they are used to.

You could explore what the triggers are that setting her off. Are older children teasing her? Often smaller children react by biting or hitting as a way to get some power back in interactions with older kids.

Aggression is usually a combination of frustration and inability to control a reaction, plus gaining power or attention.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Ideas Handling Agression in Toddlers - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Part Two . . . .

So how to deal with the aggression?

Of course at the time you have to keep other children safe. I am not a big fan of time out either, certainly not as a punishment. But time out can be quite useful in this kind of situation as you have to intervene to keep others safe.

The best way, is to jump in as quickly as possible, even try to divert her when you see her starting to escalate. Help her to see time out as something she can use to help her get back in control. Lets just sit on the sofa for a few minutes and take a few breaths. Or lets just go outside and have a yell - if she needs to release some frustrations. Even having a whack on a cushion is often a good idea to shift the angry energy in a safe way.

Help her to articulate her anger rather than just react physically. Are you cross because you want a turn with the toy? or I know it is frustrating when Mummy wants you to . . .

Ideas to help her learn to control her reactions:

Focus on building rewards for good behaviour. At this age, star charts are great - Put up a chart and give her a star when she behaves appropriately in everyday situations. Don't just focus on the aggression as the more energy that goes into that behaviour, the more she is learning that she gets lots of attention and a huge reaction when she acts out.

So focus on lots of other interactive situations when she is helpful to another family member, or is caring. That way you are rewarding and noticing all her good interactions, and reinforcing what you want.

Once she has started to get recognition and success with everyday interactions she will be less likely to resort to aggression.

Teach the Freeze Game - So everyone in the family freezes like a statue until you say the magic word. Practice it in lots of other situations, then everyone is used to it and she will be more likely to respond in the heat of the moment.

I hope this gives you a few ideas of handling it differently and shifting the focus a bit away from the aggression.

Best of luck,
Annie D

Your Free Copy of Manifesto for Inspired Parents
by: Annie Desantis

Hi James,

Can you contact me via the contact link, on the bottom of the nav bar, so I have your email address to send you the download link for your free copy of the Manifesto for Inspired Parents Vol 1. Normally you get sent to this automatically from the PayPal page, but with the free Ask Annie submissions I need to do it manually.

I know you entered your email address for notifications, but again that is automatic and I don't get access to it.

My apologies for the delay,

cheers,
Annie D

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