9 mistakes to avoid if your toddler (Year 1-3) hits/ bites/ throws/ kicks/ pushes / pulls hair

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Every parent has been witness or subject to a toddler’s aggression at some point in time. When it happens for the first time, we might be taken by surprise. When our toddler is aggressive in public or with others, it can be very embarrassing!

As a parent, initially you might have reacted impulsively; but when you notice this behavior repeating, it’s turns into a grave concern. If you’re someone like me, you might have devoured every possible article on Google or asked in your trusted FB or Whatsapp groups about how to tackle this.

Being a toddler’s parent and a parenting coach who speaks with Moms daily, I’ve realized that parents often tend to make things worse when they’re dealing with aggression in a toddler.

By the end of this blogpost,

  • You will be able to clearly identify the mistakes you’ve been making while handling your toddler when and after he hits/bites/throws/kicks/pulls hair.
  • You will be able to understand why your current reactions aren’t helping in curbing your child’s aggressive behaviors by giving your child the wrong message.
  • And then, I will direct you to well-researched resources that will help you with the exact action plan & strategies to help you and your child overcome aggressive behavior peacefully. 

WARNING: If you’re new to the concept of Gentle Parenting, a lot of my suggestions below might raise your eyebrows. These are my learnings from great teachers of peaceful parenting methods that are based on scientific evidence and that have been proved to work in raising the next generation.

If you’re ready, let’s dive in.

Here are 9 mistakes every parent must avoid while dealing with their toddler if and when he’s physically aggressive towards you / others.

1. Hitting back

So, the first time your child hits you / another person in your presence, your natural instinct might be to hit back. That’s your brain’s Fight-mode in action. So, you can forgive yourself if you hit back as an impulse. But, if you’ve been hitting back to teach your child a lesson that “He should not hit” – it’s easy to see what an irony that is.

The message your child gets: It’s ok to hit if you are bigger and stronger than the opposite person.

2. Forcing an apology

Have you tried getting a SORRY from your child after he has done something wrong, and failed? You are not alone. Even if your child obliges with a Sorry, do you think he has internalized the moral reasons why he should not hurt anyone next time? NO.

The message your child gets: I can do anything, and then just cover it up with a Sorry.

Is there a better approach? YES. I’ll show you how at the end of this article.

3. Pretend crying

While you might think that pretending to cry might convey to your toddler that ‘Hitting hurts’ – you must know that they’re much smarter. If your child sees through your bad acting, he might find it funny and enjoyable, and so might love to repeat it often.

So, it’s best to just be yourself, treat your child as a smart little person who can understand if you calmly just say, “I can’t let you hit, because it hurts.” That conveys more confidence to your child, increasing the chances of him taking you seriously.

The message your child gets: Is Mommy really hurt? Let’s do this again and see.

4. Yelling / Scolding / Punishing / Taking away privileges

Most of us have been brought up by a generation of parents who resorted to scolding, hitting or punishing at the drop of a hat. It’s natural for us to follow these methods, because that’s the only way we’ve seen parenting in action. However, today there’s enough scientific research to prove that such punitive measures might work in the short term and get your child to obey out of FEAR, but they are not effective in the long run. We must adopt approaches that help in building our child’s character where he chooses not to do something because it’s wrong and hurtful, and not to avoid punishment.

The message your child gets: If I do this and get caught, I’ll be punished. Let me try again, and not get caught.

5. Isolating him

Often when all fails, we might take the emotional route where we tell our child, “I will not talk to you if you do this again.” Please don’t put your child through this trauma. A toddler is just a baby with relatively more physical and verbal skills. They love you as much as or more than you love them. Being away from you physically or emotionally is traumatic for them, and it’s vicious to take advantage of that just to make them obey. Let your child have the gift of ‘unconditional love’. (It’s not easy, I know!)

The message your child gets: If I am good, my Mom loves me. If I am bad, she does not!. ☹

6. Distracting too quickly

So, if your toddler hit the nanny, you might take the kid away from the nanny & try to distract him with something else. Well yes, it’s a good tactic to take their minds out of aggressive mode, sometimes. But it does not teach the child anything about his improper behavior, and why he must not repeat it. It’s a good idea to deal with the behavior in the right way (more about it at the end), before you engage your child in something else.

The message your child gets: I can easily get away with this! Let’s try this again!

7. Thinking your child is the only one who behaves like this.

It’s possible that you’ve been worrying about how your child learnt aggressive behavior, when everyone at home is pretty mild and well-mannered. Yes, your child might have seen someone behave aggressively OR it could just be his impulses.

Aggression is a very common form of expression among toddlers. So, don’t look at your toddler like some alien and think, “How could you do this?”. To understand your tot better, and help him overcome his aggression, it helps to know WHY he’s being aggressive.

The message your child gets: I’m a bad kid. I don’t deserve anything good.

8. Imagining your child as a bully 10 years later, and “What will people say?”

Firstly, your child will not become a bully because he’s displaying an aggressive streak at 2 years of age. Of course, if you help your toddler overcome his aggression, he will grow up to be the most well-mannered and respectable person that you want him to be. So, cut out the “What will people say?” Avoid punishing your child for his aggression, just to appease others around you.

9. Blaming your parenting for his behavior

There are no bad parents. All of us have the best intentions in mind as we raise our kids in ways we know and can! But, what makes a great parent is the willingness to learn and grow with your child.

You can help your child overcome his aggression and gain better control over his impulses using gentle and peaceful methods.

And I’d love to tell you how. It’s for parents like you and me that I have put together a COMPREHENSIVE ACTION PLAN for Resolving Toddler Aggression. You can click here to download it for FREE. Thank me later! 😊

If you’d prefer a more personalized solution for your toddler concern, book a consultation with me (FREE for a limited period only) by clicking here.

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Author: Sharon Mary

Hi! To say the least about me, I am just a Mom trying to figure out the best way to raise my little daughter. 'Thought Symphony' is the fruit of my passion to share my learning and experiences as a ‘Mom’ to help parents like you have the smoothest ride possible on this roller coaster called ‘Parenting’.