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Hitting and pushing are common behaviours in toddlers. They are closely linked to the inability to communicate and the desire to become independent.
Toddlers hit or push when they are over-excited, and when they feel threatened, angry, frustrated or insecure. They may hit or push when other children refuse to share or if they are hungry or tired. However, toddlers need to learn that aggressive behaviour is unacceptable, and that there are other ways to communicate and express their feelings.
Plan of ActionIf hitting or pushing should occur, be serious and firm, and remain calm. Immediately tell your toddler, “No”. Resist the urge to raise your voice because an emotional reaction will only enhance the entertainment value for your toddler. If the behaviour does not stop, remove your toddler from the activity or situation. If you respond the same way every time, your toddler will soon learn that the behaviour is unacceptable.
When things have calmed down, explain why you don’t want your toddler to hurt other children, but avoid lengthy explanations, which he may not understand. Get down at your toddler’s eye level, hold his hands and encourage him to hug or apologise to the victim. Do not insist if your toddler is unwilling. This can only make things worse.
Support the victim, and involve your toddler in child’s recovery.
Major ChangesObserve your toddler to find out what triggers the behaviour. A major change such as a new baby brother or sister, moving house, starting nursery or other group activities can make your toddler feel threatened, anxious or isolated. Give your toddler the attention that he needs to help him overcome strong emotions.
PlayHitting and pushing commonly occur during play. Ensure that there are enough toys for everyone to play with, but remove your toddler’s favourite toys to avoid possessiveness. If you see the warning signs, direct your toddler to other activities.
If your toddler is more assertive around younger children, invite friends who have older children to your home. They will show your
Hunger and FatigueIf the behaviour has occurred because your toddler feels hungry or tired, a healthy snack can boost brain glucose levels and self-control skills.
Emotional OutletsHelping with household chores, making music, dancing and other forms of physical activity can release excess energy and help relieve anger and frustration.
InfluencesInfluences such as violent cartoons and video games can reinforce hitting and pushing behaviours. Although it may be an unrealistic goal to monitor every programme, the key is to provide good quality viewing as part of a balanced schedule and to be
Adult BehaviourOlder siblings and parents are major role models for toddlers. In fact, a great deal of their behaviour is influenced by what they see others doing. If an aggressive outburst should occur, handle the situation calmly and gently. Your toddler is more likely to behave in the same way if you keep your temper under control.
CommunicationTeach your toddler key words, phrases or hand gestures that he can use instead of hitting or pushing. Ask your toddler to come to you if s/he feels upset, angry or hurt.
RewardsHugs and cuddles also go a long way in providing the emotional support that your toddler might need. Special one-to-one time can also help your toddler to express his emotions. At the same time, you will understand how he is feeling.
Praise your toddler whenever he is kind and gentle and whenever you
What Happens Next?It will take time for your toddler to stop hitting or pushing, so don’t expect the behaviour to stop straight away. With consistent support and encouragement, your toddler will learn more effective ways of expressing his feelings. However if the problem continues, help and support from your GP, or other health professional, are available.
By Dr. Lin Day of Baby Sensory
About Baby SensoryBaby Sensory is the only provider of baby development classes designed specifically for babies from birth to 13 months. The classes are run in over 400 locations throughout the UK and in 12 countries including the US, Australia and Spain and has most recently launched in China. The Baby Sensory programmes have been developed in the UK by Dr. Lin Day (PhD. M. Phil. PGCE. BSc. Dip. Ed.) who has worked with babies and young children throughout her career. All activities are excellent for developing physical, social and emotional, and language skills, co-ordination, awareness of the world, a love of music and the concentration needed for further development. The programme is also suitable for babies with physical or learning impairments.
Currently one in 45 babies born in the UK attends Baby Sensory classes.
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