A 2 year old fights

The baby bites, fights, and breaks everything around her. What to do and how to react properly?

Out of resentment that his toys were given to the neighbor in the sandbox to play with, the child “charges” mom. Mom, without thinking twice, pinches him back, so he knows “how it is. And then the educators complain that “your son/daughter bites and pinches everyone. Psychologist Katerina Demina talks about how adults should respond to children’s aggression. And why respond to force with force in any case it is impossible.

Let’s first define the terms and objectives. We will call aggressive behavior when one person tries to cause other people real harm or damage – to hit, to take away an object, to push, to bite. Aggression can be verbal, such as being called names, mocked, shouted “I’ll kill you!”, threatened with violence or punishment (from educators). There is a passive version – ignoring, various forms of manipulation, silent sabotage.

The only purpose of any conscious aggressive behavior is to designate and set boundaries, and also to increase the distance between the participants of communication. I intentionally underline the word “conscious” in order to exclude children under the age of 2-2,5 years from the description. And here’s why.

Surprisingly, most of the complaints about aggressive behavior come from parents of very small children: from 6-7 months (when the first teeth erupt) to about 2 years old.

10 months: “He bites, should I bite/pinch/beat him back?”

18 months: “Baby hits everyone with a spatula, another mom hit her back, what should I do?”

2 years: “My daughter pushes away very rudely those who try to stroke her head, may kick me or bite me, is this autism?”

Before developed speech (that is, usually before the age of three), your child is more of a human cub than a conscious participant in communication. He experiences emotions with his body and reacts to everything with his body. It hurts – it cries, is tired – is capricious and falls on the floor in hysterics, wants to take something – immediately makes an attempt to get it. He has absolutely no structures of control and will. More precisely, he has a will, but there is no control. I will and I will. Appealing to his virtues (“Do you have a conscience or not? Why did you hit my mother?”) is meaningless, since he lacks any. He has no conscience, accept it. He will have one by the time he’s seven, if he’s lucky.

The baby bites because he has itchy teeth, hits his neighbor with a shovel because he is cramped or a toy was not shared, kicks his mother because he does not want strangers to touch his head or face.

One of my favorite girls regularly made a fuss in the street if strangers tried to touch her cheek. She screamed like a fire siren. Yes, she was a beautiful blue-eyed blonde. That’s no reason to touch her, especially with unwashed hands, especially when she just woke up and doesn’t know how she got here or what it’s all about.

The stunned people around us are, of course, very unhappy and begin to mutter something like “What an aggressive girl, I didn’t mean anything bad!” and quickly leave. What, in fact, the child was trying to do. To increase the distance to a subjectively safe distance. Across the table, and even sitting in the arms of mom or dad, I am happy to smile at you with all my dimples. Don’t touch it with your hands, okay?

Very often children are asked to do the impossible: Give your favorite toys to a boy they don’t know. Behave yourself at the restaurant table (he’s two, I remind you). Keep up with mom when she’s dragging heavy bags and is already very tired. Immediately stop playing and go to lunch/wash/sleep.

Parents are surprised and angry when they find that the child is not meeting their expectations, moreover, has the nerve to counteract somehow

Pushes away a spoonful of soup, for example. Kicks and twists when carried into the bathtub. Hits other children.

Meanwhile, all these manifestations of alleged “aggression” are, in fact, nothing more than self-defense. From complicated feelings, from unpleasant feelings and people and from unbearable tension.

What should parents do when the child bites, pinches, kicks and breaks everything?

First of all, in no case we shall answer with force upon force. No eye for an eye. Otherwise I sometimes hear from seemingly sane people, “Hit him, so he knows!” Have you lost your mind, dear fellow citizens, how can you even beat up someone who is ten times weaker and totally depends on you? Hit your boss, so he knows how to give urgent assignments at 5.45 pm Friday.

A child bites or kicks because he is torn with emotion, and he does not know how to express them, except with his body. What about a child, 86% of our population doesn’t know the difference between feelings/thoughts/actions. So your job is to teach him to express his anger with words. You know the difference? Not to kick his mom, but to shout loudly “bad mom, I don’t love you! And by five years it would be good to be able to say something like, “Aah! I’m terribly angry!”.

Secondly, childhood is for us to learn. Culture of behavior is one of them. But so many parents seem to think that their child’s social programs are pre-installed by default, factory installed. So, the default is just to kick it in the foot when something doesn’t go his way. Some adults retain this skill as an atavism. We have an obligation to teach our children how to behave properly in society, and all components are important here: in today’s urban culture it is common to be polite, neat, compliant. And, quite possibly, in some specific subculture of a small primitive community the opposite is true: the boy is prescribed to be aggressive, attacking, “my sword, your head from your shoulders.

When your little boy first tries to pour a bucket full of sand on the golden curls of his neighbor on the playground, all you have to do is introduce (immediately) the norms and rules of behavior. “Danila, Nastya feels really bad that you poured sand on her, she’s crying. You have to say, ‘I’m sorry, Nastya, I won’t do it again. No one should dirty other people, you can’t do that. Let’s help Nastya get the sand off her head. Shaming, yelling, dragging, reproaching, as you understand, is absolutely useless. He hasn’t yet developed the structures with which guilt is felt, only fear. You may have to repeat the procedure over and over again until the algorithm is ingrained in his head.

What parents should read on the subject:

  • Karen Pryor, “Don’t Growl at the Dog!”
  • Elaine Mazlish, Adele Farber, How to Talk to Make Kids Listen, How to Listen to Make Kids Talk (read the book outline)
  • Irina Lukyanova, “Extreme Motherhood: A Happy Life with a Difficult Child” ( read an excerpt from the book )
  • Mary Sheedy Kurchinka, “A Child with Character.”

On the other hand, try to look closely to see if perhaps the aggressive actions are repeated every time in the same situation. For example, the child finds that when he pushes someone, Mom immediately jumps up from the bench and rushes toward him at full speed. You get the idea. Or, if he swung at someone, he would be picked up and taken off the playground or home altogether. He’s already tired of walking, but he can’t tell, so he just repeats the pattern he’s successfully found.

My older daughter realized at some point that if she got into a fight in her kindergarten group, she would be locked in her bedroom “as punishment.” And she started taking advantage of that – because she is an introvert and gets tired of the hullabaloo and fuss around her. This went on until we traced the whole logical chain and taught her to go up to the teacher and ask for “lockup” to rest. Three years old.

What to do about aggression in older children – ages 4-6

What I see in my practice: boys at 4-5 years old have a level of development of speech and social skills at the level of 2-3 years old. Either say “thank you” to gadgets from infancy, or they watch the wrong cartoons. Maybe they are deprived of constant communication with significant adults, they do not see them in real life situations.

I ask a 5-year-old boy (unmotivated aggression, curses, attacks everyone): “What does Daddy do when someone cuts him off on the road?”. Dad swears in foul language, can catch up with him and cut him off on purpose, jump out at a traffic light and go to deal with him. During the discussion of some problems he tells in detail (again, in foul language) how and whom he will beat up, hurt, or mow down. Yes, he does not go drunk to fight against the wall. But he sets an unambiguous example. He accompanies everything with the standard, “We are constantly explaining to him (the child) what is good and what is bad!

Bad news, gentlemen: children learn behavior, not lectures.

The most scolding is when parents tell us exactly how they scolded a child for bad behavior. “We scolded him, and beat him, and deprived him of everything, and he still fights. What else can he do? You haven’t taught him any other way to solve problems.

Photo: Shutterstock (Cresta Johnson, AlohaHawaii, Collin Quinn Lomax)

What to do if a two-year-old fights and pushes

Parenting tactics + psychologist tips

All moms are faced with displays of child aggression, but it is the first outbursts in 2-3 year olds that are more likely to cause confusion and anxiety. Partly because it is difficult to understand its causes, and partly – because of the state of the mother herself: she has not yet fully mastered her role, probably still sleeps badly and has long been locked in the four “maternity” walls.

We talked to the neuropsychologist Anastasia Glebova about ways to solve the problem of early childhood aggression.

Typical displays of aggression in young children

Aggressive behavior is most often observed in children older than 1.5 years. Up to this age, the infant could be quite obedient and affectionate, but then, as mothers admit, it is as if he is being replaced.

Here are typical complaints about the aggressive two-year-old. Mothers say that he:

  • pushes and hits other children,
  • Hits his mom and other relatives,
  • bites,
  • hurts younger children, takes someone else’s toys.

Walking on the playground because of conflicts turns into a daily ordeal, aggression can be accompanied by tantrums, and the mother is hesitating between “wait until it passes” and the advice to see a specialist.

Causes of child aggression

In order to eliminate a scenario of behavior, it is necessary to understand its causes. The problem is that most often moms cannot find them: everything seems to be fine in the family, the child does not communicate with other children from whom she could “pick up something bad”, due to her age. This increases maternal anxiety, which is eventually passed on to the child. The circle closes up.

There are not many reasons for early childhood aggression. If we remove purely medical (possible CNS diseases), there are only two – physiological and family.

When aggression is normal

Aggression for a young child is often the only possible expression of emotions and feelings. A toddler at 2-3 years of age still has a poor command of speech and may well use force as an element of communication. For example, without malicious intent to throw sand or hit on the head with a shovel, trying to “interest” the person he or she is talking to. Such episodic aggressive behavior is inherent in absolutely all children of the preverbal period (without the skill of coherent speech).

The predominance of excitation processes over inhibition processes in the cerebral cortex also influences a child’s behavior. Simply put, if the adult’s control mechanism is already fine-tuned, children cannot stop and “get a grip”: they simply do not understand what it is.

When all the problems come from the family

If the mother sees that outbursts of aggression in two-year-olds can hardly be called episodic, then the main reason for such behavior is the influence from outside. The main way for a child to assimilate social experience is through imitation. He learns to hold a spoon by repeating the movements of an adult, learns to jump by copying the behavior of other children, etc. Of course, imitation can have not only positive effects. Children with pleasure copy everything bad: shouting, waving their hands and swearing. It is quite possible that the cause of aggressive behavior is imitation of another kid at a playground, but still the main influence on the child is in the home environment.

In this family there may well be no outward manifestations of aggression – no one yells at anyone and does not beat anyone. However it does not mean, that there are no conflicts at all. The child can read the growing lack of understanding and silent confrontation between family members and give the emotional response that he or she can.

Aggression is a typical reaction to lack of attention from adults. It works both in a short-term task (for example, when the mother talked on the phone and the baby got bored and tapped her on the knee), and globally (when all behavior of the child is aimed at attracting adults’ attention).

It also happens that there is an inversion of roles – if the mother starts to play the role of the child, then the child himself or herself has no choice but to become an “adult. Again, as he/she understands this function and within the limits of his/her abilities. Typical behavior of the infantile mother: manipulations of the type “If you don’t finish your porridge, I’ll cry/argue/go away”, frequent tears, demonstrative insults to the child.

Children do not analyze imitated scenarios. For example, if a child sees joking scuffles between parents or flirtations in the form of light slaps, he may transfer this manner to his behavior, giving already more tangible slaps to his peers or family members.

Tactics for Mothers in Child Aggression

Children are growing, exploring and probing the world around them, so it is normal for them to be aggressive. A toddler reasoning goes something like this: “What happens if I yell/push/strike?” The response to these actions can both reinforce his behavior and correct it.

Mom’s tactics largely depend on her psychological stability and overall physical and mental state.

  1. The first thing to do – to analyze your own behavior and family relationships, because certain nuances can be corrected. If most of the time with a child is spent not with his mother, and the other adult (Dad, grandmother, babysitter or older brother), it is worth excluding the possibility of inappropriate behavior on their part. But the most important thing is to listen to your own condition. Chronic fatigue and lack of resources in the mom may well be an indirect cause of the child’s aggression. In this case, the most important step in solving the problem of early childhood aggression is to give proper time to themselves, and not to the child. If the mom simply has no strength, she will not be able to give an adequate adult response, and all the other actions will be pointless.
  2. The second important point – it is necessary to learn to understand the child, to decipher his/her non-verbal language. This will take time (and effort!), but having understood the true reasons for a particular action, it is much easier to react to it correctly. For example, the child hits his mother and smiles. Most likely, for him or her, it is a game, which means that an overreaction on the part of adults will only increase the action, because the game will begin to be responded to. In such a case, it is better to calmly stop the hand (perhaps many times), explain that hitting is not allowed, and offer another game.
  3. Always give your child quality feedback and build up their emotional intelligence. You don’t have to scold hard or say that you can’t hit because “Mom will scold.” It is more correct to say that it is impossible to hit, because it offends other kids, they are sad, and they cry. That is to emphasize the emotional component.
  4. If mom feels helpless, it is better to address a psychologist. You can start with a child specialist, but it is possible that a session with an adult psychologist for moms/parents will be more useful. Exaggerated expectations of motherhood, the consequences of the otlichnitsa syndrome, when your child has to be the best (obedient, kind, considerate), and the confusion that everything is going wrong, put moms in a non-resource state, which negatively affects their family relationships. Sometimes one consultation is enough to solve a “problem” that doesn’t really exist, but it’s important for mom to calm down and find answers to her questions.

And remember: shown aggression is much safer than hidden, suppressed aggression. The latter may eventually turn to the child and be expressed in a decrease in progress (in small children – in the absence of progress in certain skills), the feeling of a victim.

The child does not have many options to express his or her strength, and most often it is realized in resistance. If he learns to resist under pressure from adults, it will be difficult for him to say “no” when it really matters in adolescence.

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