What makes toddlers behave aggressively?

What makes toddlers behave aggressively?
As children grow up, they resort to physical aggression less, mostly because the parts of their brains that control this behaviour are better developed.

Lack of control

“Young children display 2 types of aggressive behaviour. The first is reactive and occurs when the child can’t control herself,” says Isabelle Vinet. When a child is forbidden to do something or is given limits, she reacts violently (e.g.: hits, bites, kicks, rolls on the ground screaming, throws things). In such situations, it’s important to intervene to help your child better manage her emotions and increase her tolerance for frustration.

Did you know that...

  • Infants can have tantrums starting at 2 months old. Most babies bite, hit or pull hair as soon as they are able to do so.
  • Before the age of 3, most boys and girls exhibit aggressive behaviour in their social interactions. This is seen most frequently among children between the ages of 2 and 3 years old.
  • Children resort to aggressive behaviour when they’re experiencing intense emotions (e.g.: anger) or simply as a means to get what they want.
  • Little girls stop resorting to aggressive behaviour more quickly than boys.
  • Little girls display indirect aggression earlier and more often than boys (e.g.: speaking badly about a friend).
  • Early childhood is a crucial period for learning to control aggressive tendencies.
  • As they develop language and social skills, by the time they start school, most children no longer resort to aggressive behaviour.
 

Inability to express themselves

As children grow up, they resort to physical aggression less, mostly because the parts of their brains that control this behaviour are better developed.

The second type of aggressive behaviour in children is proactive. Since the child has no other way to express what she wants, she behaves aggressively for a specific purpose: to get the toy she wants, an adult’s attention, permission to do a given activity, etc. You’ll help her best by giving her the tools she needs to develop appropriate behaviour and help her formulate her requests in an acceptable manner, for example, by speaking calmly or waiting her turn.

 For Pascale, mother of 2-year-old Arno, it’s the limits she sets for him that bring out his aggressiveness. “Arno hits and bites, and mostly with me. I realize that I have a hard time being as firm and consistent with him as my spouse, and I know that doesn’t help. Arno has little tolerance for frustration, and it’s worse when he’s tired,” notes the young mother.
Remember

  • Aggressive behaviour peaks towards 2 years old, and then gradually phases out with time.
  • Your child needs you to help her develop her self-control.
  • Emotions become easier to manage as language develops.
  • Children gradually learn to use words to express their anger.