Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tips for Teaching Toddlers to Be Gentle

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I recently heard a mom express her concern about her child's aggressiveness when she gets excited to see someone. How do you teach a toddler to be gentle? Are there a lot of moms out there wondering the same thing?

I collected the following information from various sites including:

Why Aggressive Behavior?

Aggressive actions like biting and hitting are most common between the ages of 18-months and 2-1/2 years. At these ages, children do not always have the verbal language to communicate their needs; instead, they will communicate through their actions. Thankfully, "most aggressive toddler behaviors will lessen once the child is old enough to communicate by words instead of actions" (Ask Dr. Sears). 

Now, you might be asking "But what if my child still expresses aggressive behavior even when he or she has the verbal skills to communicate?"

Something To Think About (National Center for Infants)

No two children or families are alike. Thinking about the following questions can help you
apply the information below to your own child and family.
  • What kinds of situations usually lead to your child acting aggressively? Why do you think this is?
  • When your child acts in ways that seem aggressive, how do you typically react? Do you think this reaction is helpful to your child or not? Why?

Tips and Tricks for Handling Aggressive Behaviors

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1.  Consider the source
  • In your child what triggers his or her aggressive behaviors? It might be helpful for you to pay close attention to the triggers that prompt your child's aggressive behavior by writing them down in a journal (Ask Dr. Sears). 

2.  Show toddler how to be gentle (Advice For Moms, by Moms)
  • One mother found it helpful to "Re-direct her behavior and show her how to use gentle touches. Take her hands and physically rub them nice and gentle down your face and remind her that if she wants to play with anyone, she must use gentle touches. Use positive reinforcement for when she does it and time-out from the situation if she keeps doing it. Be consistent."

3.  Praise toddler each time he/she replaces aggressive behavior with gentle touch (Disney Baby)
  • Here's a statement from a mom about her experience with praising: "The most effective affirmation I've given Elvie has been when she is being gentle on her own. She is so proud of herself for knowing what to do and how to do it that she tries to do it again and again, hoping I’ll notice. Go out of your way to make note of small ways your little one is being gentle and praise him or her for them. Gaining a new skill is big stuff for the toddler set, and your toddler will feel incredibly proud to have accomplished something new."

4.  Explain to toddler that hitting/biting hurts (Advice For Moms, by Moms)
  • Here's an experience that helped one mother: "I went through this with my son and it was tough. For awhile it felt like nothing worked. So I started being immediate with his punishment. As soon as he hit I was telling him "No! Hurt! Hurt mommy!" And I marched his tail to time-out. It took a few times to get the point, but I really think if you're consistent - and if the punishment is immediate and forceful (like you mean business, not play), then it will all work out. For my son, the thought of "hurting" someone was very effective. He might get excited and hit, but he did NOT want to hurt anyone. Big lesson there."

5.  Offer alternatives for expressing frustration (Advice For Moms, by Moms)
  • Here's what another mom found helpful: "You might try giving her another outlet for expressing her feelings. Give her a long cylindrical pillow she can use sort of like a bat and tell her that when she's angry, she's allowed to hit a certain spot (the couch or a chair, for example) but that she's not allowed to hit people and not with her hands. If it's not anger-based, then it sounds like she needs a good way to grab attention--get her a microphone and have her sing songs or tell jokes instead. Challenge her to find the silliest way to hug; hug your leg, your arm, just your hand, hug backwards. It's still physical contact, but sweet instead of aggressive."

6.  Discipline toddler when he/she hits others and move on (Advice For Moms, by Moms)
  • Explain to your child the consequence that will follow if she does hit or bite someone. If your child does hit or bite, follow through with the consequence you had discussed with her. Be firm but try not to be emotional. Fussing over her may encourage her to keep hitting.
Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you on handling a child's aggressive behavior?

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