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Aggressive 2-year old. HELP!

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Well, my DS passed the 2 yr birthday with no fanfare at all. But over the last few weeks, he has become a biting, screaming, hitting, pinching, hairpulling little boy. Sometimes it's due to frustration, but he will also do it just while playing. Its like this wave of energy comes through him and he doesn't know how to handle it, so he hauls off and whacks me in the face, or bites dad *hard*, or grabs ahold of the skin on my neck and pulls and pinches. He's SO physical, and very intense about everything, nursing, hugging, playing, and hurting.
All I've done so far is tell him that it hurts, put him down, try to change the environment to be new and distracting, that kind of thing. Sometimes that works fine, but other times he will just keep hitting/pinching/biting. It is only getting worse, now he's hitting and biting relatives and laughing about it.
Once at dinner I told him that if he couldn't control his own hands I would help him by holding them down until he was ready to quit hitting. I held him in my lap with my arms folded around him for less than a minute. He cried, and I felt awful. He didn't hit again that evening, but I don't know what kind of message I sent.
How do you stop this kind of behavior? The grandparents think that I need to send a message that it's not appropriate, that it's ok if he cries when I discipline him, that the idea is to get his attention. They know I won't spank him, but they have even suggested biting him back, or pulling his hair as he's pulling mine to let him know how it feels. They say since he's not rational yet, the only thing that will get through to him is something simple and physical. They call him mean sometimes. He's always been a sweet little guy, I don't know where this is coming from.
I don't know what to do, I don't want to let his aggresiveness get out of control, but I don't feel like I have much control over his behavior. I never really expected to *have* control, but I'd like to do something to change this pattern of behavior.
Help help help
Steph
post #2 of 3
(HUG) Steph,

It is really hard to face sometimes, when our previously gentle babies start showing (very normal, extremely common) toddler behavior. I find it helps me deal with things better if I remind myself *often* that it's developmental phase rather than a new personality trait. Tune out the negative *mean* comments as best you can or if you feel up to it, set them straight about just how normal this is, how support rather than judgement would be ever so helpful. Furthermore, I can't imagine how reducing your own behavior to biting back could in anyway teach your son to be more gentle with his own behavior. Indeed, it might get his attention, but if we are to truly be models for our children than why on earth would we send a message that retaliation is ok?IMO, retaliation would only serve to intensify the situation (most likely) and your goal with aggressive type behavior is to do exactly the opposite.

I try to to underline any disciplinary discussions with whatever emotion is fueling the negative behavior. This can be tricky if the emotion is not obvious (such as when he's really excited or worked up). "Joey took your car from you and it made you angry. It's OK to feel angry. It's NOT ok to hit someone, because someone can get hurt. You MAY hit your drums, the floor a pillow, etc." Repeat. Repeat again. And again. Remember with any phase of behavior, it will take lots of repetition and consistency on your part. Choose a path and stay on it... eventually the messages will get through.

Two years old is most likely too early in his developlment to expect him to simply stop a negative behavior. Kids have strong emotions and limited verbal skills for expressing such strong feelings. They need outlets. Rather the simply trying to stop the behavior, have you tried giving him positive outlets for his powerful emotions and energy? Instead of holding him in a hug to get him to stop hitting (if frustration is a factor in his behavior, this may actually fuel and perpetuate it), try giving him something that he *can* hit. My son loves to play drums (be it pots and pans or his toy drums). When he bites, I give him something he can bite (an old teether I keep around for such occasions or perhaps a snack).

I've found that this kind of behavior is usually fueled by DS feeling tired, ill or hungry. I try to keep those things in check as a preventative measure. Also, when my reactions are emotionally strong (rather than calm and matter of fact), we can sometimes get a rash of this kind of behavior (i.e., he's found an effective way to get my attention). On that note, whenever we hit a rough patch like this, I do pay more attention. I try to connect with, and focus more on DS. I figure if he's going to such lengths to get my attention, then he must be feeling a need. I've found more often than not that a good stretch of connected time with mommy is usually an effective way to grow beyond those rough patches. And it's a pretty good reminder for me that at 2, he sometimes needs more than at 2 months. Albeit in different ways.

Sorry for the novel here. Hang in there!!
post #3 of 3

aggressive 2 year old....I hear ya...

Well, I sure can relate with your post. I have posted a similiar one in desperation myself. It is along with the survey, "does your toddler hit?"

She is 2.5 and has been very aggressive toward me, my partner and kids younger then her for almost a year:

During this incredibly tough rollar coaster ride of emotions. I have sorted out the following factors that affect her mood:
The first and most obvious stuff is hungry? low blood sugar is not tolerable even for a few minutes. Tired? Lonely? Is there too much going on? (too many kids at the park, conflicting games, too many toys to choose from is even frustrating)

What is she unable to communicate? This is when I am modeling how to interact with other little ones. Stuff like, "ask do you want to hold hands, don't grab hands?" "Say, look at what I am doing, don't touch faces." "Lets wait our turn, good waiting." Constantly hovering and anticipating what she is feeling and thinking. I thought I'd be able to read a book or talk to an adult once in a while, when we go to the park, but not yet...she needs a coach more now then she did previously.

Absolutely no preservatives or food coloring is allowed, I was a bit relaxed with this, especially with birthday cakes and occasional treats her Abuelos (grandparents) would give her, (real low quality mexican candy...yikes) EVen like colored bubblebath, that I'd never buy, but ended up with some as a gift...she went nuts in the tub, banging her head and screaming that night I tried the stuff.

Also, there is a list of whole foods that have a chemical in them that can set up the toddlers for a wild emotional ride...I can not explain the chemistry, but the Feingold Association has a list of foods, and I have had seen some real improvments after taking her off these foods and experimenting one by one which ones might be more or less tolerable. Interestingly, most all her favorite fruits and veggies were on the list, I guess she was craving the foods that set her up. The list included apples, all berries, cucumbers, peaches, grapes and raisins, and a lot others. It was hard to eliminate then and I am still working hard at it. But if your kids responds it is so worth it.

Also, about my parenting style, I have learned that the eye for an eye method is disasterous. I am embarressed I was bullied into thinking that she couldn't understand more gentle methods and that spanking was OK for really unacceptable aggression. and pulling her hair back after she pulled mine, things like that, actually fed her aggression and made her feel gloat at how angry she made Mom. Trying to be Zen about it is real challenging for me. Unfortuneatly my partner is NOT able to help support me or her in these situations. But switching who is doing the discipline, mid-fit is an effective way of supporting eachother and the little one....anyway hope something here is helpful.

Know that it is not a reflection of how good or bad you are parenting when your kid is out of control. It is a healthy exploration of limits and a way to communicate frustrations.
Good luck.

-dancingbear
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