my daughter turns three in June. she has always been super spirited, and has been physically aggressive towards other kids and her parents since about 18 months (or maybe earlier - don't remember).
as she gets bigger and stronger, i'm having trouble figuring out how to best help/contain her when she lashes out at me and DH. she is in a particularly tough phase of hitting, scratching, pinching, biting and kicking DH and i currently.
our current strategy is to hold her hands firmly and tell her calmly that we won't let her hurt us, and ask her when she feels ready to stop. when she says she's ready to stop, we release her hands.
but the bigger and smarter she gets, the harder this is to implement anywhere near gently. today i spent at least 1/2 an hour going through this routine. she chases after me (so i can't just turn away or go into another room). she hits me, and when i hold her hands down she then starts scratching my hands, kicking, and eventually biting. i end up having to hold her more firmly than i'd like and in some contorted maneuvers to avoid her hurting me in some shape or form.
other things we have tried in the past that do *not* work at all for her are distraction (of any kind), time out, distancing ourselves from her, and offering more affection/touch/connection.
* i cross posted this in the Toddler forum *
I got tired of my signature, but I still love my children and husband and miss my little brother.
My daughter nurses a few times a day, but I night weaned her just after she turned two. But she still rarely STTN, so I can relate to the lack of sleep not helping.
Hope things start to get better/easier soon!
Have you considered looking at what she is eating? Me and my two girls are gluten free due to crazy feelings, among other things. My oldest looks ADHD when she has gluten. But my younger is aggressive and has frequent melt downs that some to go on forever! She was gluten free bc the two of us were until about 3. then DH wanted someone to share crackers with!! We didn't really put it together until the excuse of oh, she 3 became oh, she's 4. We decided for her to go gluten free again and let me tell you there is a different child. The melt downs have decreased from daily to 1-2 week. She even removes herself from situations and comes back when ready. This is a different child. And the annoying rash that wouldn't go away, went away right after going g/f. For me, I feel much calmer and not to anxious inside. I will never intentional go back bc of the way I feel when I eat gluten.
Just my experience but might be worth it. It doesn't work for everyone.
Sue, mama to Spitfire (4/06) , a Firecracker (9/08) , and Chill baby (3/12)
oh wow - thanks for sharing your experience and the interesting conclusion that gluten was so closely related to your daughter's agressive behavior.
to be honest, i have a really strong resistance to trying gluten free for us. mainly because 1) my intuition tells me that gluten isn't the culprit for my DD, although it obviously has quite an effect on others, including your family, and 2) i am a total foodie, and love everything gluten, as does my daughter.
BUT, i'm guessing if things either get worse or if we find ourselves in a similar sitch to yours (still having the frequent, agressive meltdowns by age four), i may well change my tune and try it out.
thanks so much for the suggestion. just need to let it marinate for a while since i'm so resistant. :)
If food turns out not to be the problem, could you try a time-out room? Do you have a guest room, or somewhere that is not the same room her toys are in, that is toddler proofed where you can put her for time out until she calms down? I know you listed time out as something you've already tried, but perhaps placing her in a bare, boring room to think for a while when she is in the middle of behaving that way will giver her the message that that behavior only gets her put in a boring room away from her family. If the guest room scenario isn't possible, I recommend trying to do time out where you just explain that she cannot be violent, it hurts you, and she must stay in time out until she is ready to be nice. Then the rest of the time you don't say anything and just continue to put her back in time out, and ignore her unless she gets up again, like supernanny style. It can be really tough the first few times, and can last a LOOONG time until she gives in, but in the end it is worth it to have them really understand that you will not put up with that behavior.
The dietary change that had a huge effect on my spirited kid (now 11) was when I started making her protein-based breakfasts (like eggs) instead of grain-based breakfasts, like cereal or toast. It's amazing what a huge difference it made for her behavior, all the way through and including bedtime. She also can't handle having anything sweet in the morning, so if she has pancakes, it's a pancake dinner or something.
All kids are different as far as this kind of thing goes but you might try a few different things as far as diet goes and see if anything causes improvement.
A lot of kids go through an aggressive phase during the toddler years, and in my experience it improves as their language improves, so I'd probably try working on her language, particularly in her ability to tell you how she feels. Kids don't naturally think about their emotions as something to discuss or tell you about, so when they're angry, instead of thinking about how angry they are and telling you they're angry, they're likely to lash out. I would say something like, "You look angry" or ask "Are you angry?" and maybe add something like "It's OK to be angry, but it isn't OK to hit."
Language improvement in general seems to help with this from what I've seen, so any work with language should help. And of course talking about emotions. There are lots of books about emotions, where they show babies or kids with different emotions and you can ask her how that baby is feeling and she can say what she thinks based on the expression or the scene that is presented. Disappointed, frustrated, angry, all of those are good to learn. I remember when my older daughter was just coming out of this aggressive stage and looked really angry and I was afraid she was going to hit me or break something, but instead she yelled, "I am so FRUSTRATED!!!" It was a huge improvement, and then we could talk about what was frustrating her and talk about how to fix it.
My daughter has been eating protein rich breakfasts for a while now, and I'll definitely plan to keep that up - makes sense to me.
She's always been super advanced verbally, so although I imagine things will improve as she gets older, it's hard to pinpoint verbal ability as a big part of our issue. Or maybe I'm just being naive?
Yeah - I imagine that must have been so awesome when your daughter started to talk more about her feelings during moments of stress. Score!!