Attachment Parenting

Toddler Emotions and Aggression (long)

DS has always been very physical and could certainly be classified as "spirited" but his day to day personality is exuberant and joking. We've had a few phases over the past year where he gets aggressive with his friends (mostly at school since that is where he interacts with other kids the most). The first few episodes were clearly him learning how to play (he would walk up and hit a kid to get their attention when he wanted to play so we taught him ) but over the past few months I've noticed they've been when he's getting sick or during a growth spurt. Aggression seems to be the cue that something is "off" for him.

DH has worked out of town for 2-3 days a week for the past 18 months or so. He had a long stretch in January and February when he did not have to go out of town except a day here and there. DS is very much a daddy's-boy. Now he's gone on a 2 week stretch - the longest he's ever been gone. On Friday DS hit his best friend with a toy at school and made her cry and was "very physical" with the other kids. I got "the talk" from his teacher once again about hitting. I talked to his teachers about DH being out of town earlier in the week since I kind of expected something would happen and they're understanding but obviously they need to protect all of the kids.

Honestly, I'm at a loss about how to deal with DS's emotions and aggression. Not being there when it happens makes it hard to work through as well. When DS is home, we talk about what is going on, how we miss daddy, how he is loved and daddy will be home after his work is finished. We Skype and call daddy and try to include him on daily events.  Later today we'll be packing a box of "goodies" we made to send to DH. DH will hopefully be home next weekend and Easter weekend but he has at least 3 more weeks on his current project and then probably 2 more long term projects after that.

Has anyone dealt with this? Anything else I can try?

Gabriel :: Born on his due date - 9/19/09 :: 9lb 8oz, 21"Birth Storysig4 copyBaby Birthday Ticker Ticker

Re: Toddler Emotions and Aggression (long)

  • imagefredalina:
    Give him something that is acceptable to hit? A stuffed animal, pillow, punching dummy, etc?

    I'm a lurker on this board, but I just wanted to say I wouldn't recommend giving him something else to hit.  This still teaches him that it's okay and appropriate to get out his aggression in a physical way. 

    At his age, I think it's just about teaching right and wrong.  Keep it simple and concrete.  He probably doesn't even understand that he's acting differently when daddy is gone, or that missing daddy is having an effect on him.  Be firm and tell him that hitting is wrong, we don't hit our friends, etc.

    I'm not a mom, but I'm a social worker and have spent a lot of time working with kids. 

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  • I too would shy away from hitting other things, as the distinction might be tricky.

    Some ideas:

    Encourage art instead. (Make daddy a picture when he misses him; draw me how you feel; draw what made you mad, etc) Essentially gives a different way to "communicate" rather than aggression. Play dough can be a fun way to work out that jittery feeling too. 

    Make a quick plan for anger and practice. I used Tucker the Turtle with my class of 2 and 9 months to 4. Not sure how old DS is, but it could work with support. Essentially it teaches the steps to managing strong emotions. If you google it, you'll find the powerpoint story. However, it's hard to say if DS is angry when he is aggressive or whether it's just an attention thing. 

    If it's an attention thing (I want my peer's attention, so I hit them), you can practice asking friends to play instead or using gentle touches (hugs, high fives, etc). For some of my students who like physical contact with friends, we teach lots of games with these gentle touches (like Row, Row, Row Your Boat with friends holding hands and "rowing" together), essentially adding ways to play/touch friends that are acceptable rather than too rough. 



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  • I think it is important to acknowledge that he might be mad and frustrated and that is okay.  I kind of agree with Fred.  He is young and physical and having a long verbal conversation with him about missing dad, etc is going to be too much.

    As a mom of a boy I do notice that he is physical when he is upset (I, on the other hand, am verbal when I am upset).  Kids are smart..if you tell him it is not okay to hurt his friends, but okay to want to "move" when he is angry here are some alternatives.


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  • I'm on my way to becoming a FTM, so I don't have any experience with my own kids, but I do have experience with siblings, other kids and my own childhood.  lol

    When you Skype with DS and DH do you talk about his behavior at school?  I ask because when I was little I was Daddy's Girl.  Unfortunately, what my mother had to say about things didn't really "matter" much to me and anything she said tended to go in one ear and out the other.  However, when it came to my dad, I always felt bad if he was disappointed by my behavior and would strive to correct it.  I also spent much more time with my mom, so when I got to go out with dad at home or on an outing alone it was a treat and I was always on my best behavior -- if I slipped up it was easily corrected by engaging me in conversation as if I were equal.  "Why did you do that?" "This is why that is not the right thing to do."  etc., etc. 

    He never told me he was "disappointed" in me, or tried to shame me, which was also different from instances with my mom -- not saying you do this, just elaborating on my experience -- and I think that also made a difference in the way I accepted his guidance.

  • imagefredalina:
     ETA I'm nearly 37 and have times I get so mad I have to act out physically. Good thing or my house would never get cleaned ;).

    This is what I agree with the most.  Sometimes we just need to get it out.  There are many, many times when I am frustrated and angry I am not in the mood for a conversation...I need to do something.

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  • Thanks everyone for the ideas and discussion. Sorry it took me so long to get back  here but my free time has been non-existent lately.
    Gabriel :: Born on his due date - 9/19/09 :: 9lb 8oz, 21"Birth Storysig4 copyBaby Birthday Ticker Ticker
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