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Aggressive Toddler Pushing Kids at Daycare

Question:

How can I get my 3-year-old to stop pushing his brother and the other kids at daycare? He is getting quite aggressive, and I don't know how to stop it.

Answer:

First of all, you ​should determine what the house rules are going to be for him. There should be agreement on the rules among all the other adults in the home and a commitment to deal with his behavior consistently. As much as possible, try to have the same rules and consequences at home as he has at daycare. If you do not get a handle on his behavior now, then it will most likely worsen over time. However, there is hope; his behavior can improve so long as you exhibit consistency when dealing with it.

Make sure you clearly outline your expectations to him. If he breaks the rules, stop him and describe what he is doing wrong. Then give him a negative consequence. Then describe the positive behavior you want him to exhibit. At another time, have him practice the behavior you want him to display. It is vitally important to remain calm as you are going through this process.

If your son is aggressive, he should receive an immediate time out. As a general rule, use one minute of time out for every year of his age. Currently he is 3 years old, so he should receive a three-minute time out. After he has successfully completed his time out, you should talk with him about his behavior and how he should handle the situation differently in the future. He should also be required to do something positive for the child with whom he was aggressive. Then, praise him for his kindness to the other child.

Providing negative consequences alone will not do the trick. Make sure you give him positive praise when is behaving appropriately. As a rule, you should give four instances of positive praise for every negative. It’s also a good idea to practice positive behaviors and appropriate responses when things are going well. Teaching appropriate behavior is very important to this process.

Many families like to use a chart to document positive behavior. Your son can even help create the chart. Draw pictures of particular positive behaviors or specific house rules, and have him help color the pictures. Do not overwhelm him with too many rules at first. Instead, start out with the “must” rules for the time being, and as he complies, you can add more. You can also let him pick out the stickers for the chart, and give him a larger reward when he gets a good-behavior “streak” going for a certain amount of time. Whatever you do, it is important to set this up so that these rewards are actually achievable for him.

Rewards do not have to be expensive. In fact, some families use a “joy jar,” from which the child can choose from a variety of rewards, including time with an adult, a trip to the library or choice of favorite meal. Have him help write down rewards of his choosing on slips paper and put them in a jar. Then have him draw a reward from the jar when he deserves it.
 
It may take time to see behavioral changes, but with consistency this issue should be resolved. Consistency is key. As much as possible, get everyone in his life — including the daycare and other family members — to deal with his behavior in the same manner.

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