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Aggressive 2-Year-Old

Question:

My 2-year-old daughter has become very aggressive. Most often her aggressive behavior is evident when she is overstimulated. But there have been numerous other times when she has hit someone for no apparent reason. I am concerned that this is not a stage she will outgrow.

 

Answer:

It may be most effective to teach your daughter some strategies to help her stay calm when she is overstimulated or simply upset. Though she is only 2, you can teach her this if you practice.  

At a calm time when she is not upset or overstimulated, talk about being mad. Tell her that feeling angry is okay. It is a normal emotion, and even Mommy gets angry sometimes. But hitting is not okay. Tell her that when she starts to feel mad, you want her to do something else. Then describe and show her what you want her to do.  

This could be finding her favorite stuffed animal and giving it a tight squeeze. It could also be blowing out her “birthday candles.” Have her hold up one finger for each year of her life. In your daughter’s case, this is two. Then have her blow out each candle one at a time. You can also have your daughter put her hands in her pockets or clasp them behind her back if she feels like hitting. 

You have now told her what you don’t want her to do and you have given her options on what to DO instead. Whichever calming technique you choose, you must practice it with your daughter frequently. In doing so, she will more likely enact the appropriate response to anger rather than the inappropriate one such as hitting.  

If you can tell when she is about to lose control and hit, gently prompt her and show her one of the calming techniques you have practiced. In essence, you are heading off bad behavior before it happens. Each and every time she uses one of the new strategies, praise her. Be enthusiastic and sincere.  

If she doesn’t use one of her new calming techniques and begins to hit, physically intervene. Gently take her aside, calm her down and re-teach one of the strategies. Then have her practice it. 

This process will take time. Do not expect immediate results, and don’t be discouraged if she relapses. And don’t let her fall back into a hitting behavior.

 

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