What to do with an angry, violent toddler? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 12-23-2007, 10:56 AM - Thread Starter
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I am in despearte need of help. My 2.5 year old is becoming too much for me to handle and I just do not know what to do with him.

I had a baby 3 weeks ago and he has had a very hard time adjusting. He throws fits whenever he doesn't get his way, usually when he wants me to hold him and I have the baby. I thought this was just related to the baby, but he does it now whenever he doesn't get his way.

When he gets mad he screams, he tells me to leave (but if I do he only screams more and doesn't want me to go), he'll ask to be picked up but when I try he won't let me, and pretty much he'll keep this up until for awhile but he usually calms down. I can handle that part. But if he gets really mad he starts hitting me (and the baby if I let him, although he would rather hit me).

If he gets even worse he will start throwing and knocking things down. Yesterday he picked up this weebles horse that weighs probably 2-3 pounds and threw it at me, well I happend to have the baby in my hands and it hit her square on her FACE!! It hit her cheek and it really hurt her. She will have a bruise. I eventually locked me and my other 2 children away from Nathan (2.5 year old) so he couldn't hurt anyone anymore. I didn't know how else to stop him. Probably not the best thing to do, but I'm not going to let him hurt my other children, especially my little one.

He hits and acts this way whenever he doesn't get his way. So how do I discipline him? Time outs don't seem to work and I don't do spanking. I also think that part of his behavior is uncontrollable because he acts unrational. But perhaps I am just being manipulated by a 2 year old. Oh dear, does anyone have any advice for me?? Even though I love him I'm really starting to not like him, and I don't want to feel that way about my son....


Kimberly, Naturopath in Progress
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#2 of 4 Old 12-23-2007, 11:12 AM
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I haven't been in your situation (although it is coming) but I don't think he is manipulating you, I think he just doesn't know how to deal with his feelings about the new baby and he is acting out. Pretty normal for his age. My first line of defense would be to get some friend/family to help you out if possible. If you have a partner who can have one on one and/or give you one on one with him I think it will help too. I would talk to Nathan about how he is feeling, especially when he is acting out - Wow, you are mad right now. The baby is taking alot of mommy's time and attention. I still love you and have time for you, do you want to read a book, have a snuggle, XYZ? Just helping him put how he feels into words.

Good luck, I can only imagine how tough it is.
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#3 of 4 Old 12-23-2007, 11:49 AM
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I agree with pbjmama. It's really important to validate his feelings since he's much too little to verbally communicate why he is so frustrated. Help him put those feelings into words and let him know you're there to help him sort through them. I think pbjmama gave a great example as how to do that.

Locking yourself away from him will most likely just feed his frustration. I understand the need to protect the other ones, but mama, he's 2.5! There is no reason that you should have to hide from your son. That gives him way too much power (you're teaching him that he can negatively control your response) and you don't want to reinforce that. It'll only get worse.

The only other thing I would add is to acknowledge his positive behavior. When he's being a helper, gentle, playing nicely with his friends, etc. let him know you've noticed. "Thank you for helping mommy put the blocks away.", "What a nice hug Nathan!", etc.

I'm sure the balancing act is hard mama. You are only 3 weeks pp! Go easy on all of you, especially yourself. Life adjustments take some time to navigate. Get support and help wherever you can.

Good luck.
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#4 of 4 Old 12-23-2007, 06:39 PM
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I would recommend a couple things:

1. Get the book Connection Parenting by Pam Leo. It's easy to skim if you don't have time to sit down and read it cover to cover. It has helped us so much and it sounds like it can help you too.

2. Give him an acceptable way to express his frustration and anger -- something that does not involve throwing or hitting though. Some parents have good success with a "stomping rug." That way you're acknowledging/validating his feelings, and also allowing him to express those feelings in an acceptable and safe manner. Tell him it is NEVER acceptable to throw in anger or to hit, then give him some way that is acceptable to express those emotions. Otherwise he learns it's not acceptable to express certain emotions and that's not good. :/ All emotions are valid. Not all manners of acting on them are acceptable, though. And that's a tough concept for toddlers to get. So giving him a healthy and safe outlet could help.

3. Try to reconnect with him as often as possible. When you can, if you have someone else who can watch the baby, take advantage of some one on one time with your toddler. As often as possible.

4. Don't emphasize the forced consequences or action *you* will take, instead emphasize the actual outcome of *his* action. For instance: "We NEVER throw in anger. Throwing hurts <the baby, Mama, etc.>! We NEVER hurt <the baby, Mama, etc.>!" If you were to focus on forced consequences ("If you do that one more time, I'll <insert whatever punishment here>") toddlers sometimes hear that as a challenge or even an encouragement, as if you said "If you do that one more time, I will do SOMETHING that will be giving you more attention." If that makes sense. So we always try to focus on the actual outcome rather than a perceived threat ("hitting hurts" instead of "hitting will get you in trouble"). Otherwise it's negative reinforcement and a child could learn to make choices out of fear, avoidance, or guilt.

5. Praising positive behavior can help but only if used in conjunction with reconnecting and establishing boundaries on acceptable and unacceptable behavior, IME. Otherwise it's just positive reinforcement, which leads to him making choices based on external validation and praise, which can cause trouble later on down the road in terms of peer pressure, etc.

Check out the book by Leo if you can. It's simply wonderful. And you might also x-post in GD if you don't find your solution here.

Good luck Mama. And sorry you're all dealing with this. I hope it gets better soon!

SAHM to Guinevere (04/05/06) and Eowyn (02/13/09)
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