Is my toddler a bully?
Wouldn’t life be a joy if our sweet, darling children could always remain sweet? How can a sweet bundle of joy turn into the next bully of the neighborhood? Behavior like this is not often learned. There are some abusive homes where the toddler does see and want to emulate the actions because that seems to be the norm for them. For most individuals, aggressive behavior is not learned. The mean streak you see and feel from your toddler lately is likely just a short term episode. A toddler will exhibit this sort of behavior when they are overwhelmed, frustrated, or not understanding. That mean and aggressive little cherub is expressing his frustration that he does not have words for yet.
When a parent first witnesses this aggressive and angry behavior from their toddler, it is most important to stay calm. If, as parents, we overreact by getting upset or yelling at our toddler, you can be sure it will come back to haunt you. This tidbit of information will be stored away in the toddler’s memory as a way to get your attention. When a child sees a parent become dramatic, that is highly entertaining for them.
Express Yourself in Simple Style
You need to remember to speak at the toddler’s level of vocabulary. Simply telling them that “We do not hit” should be sufficient. However, at different stages, children will retaliate with questions as to why not. As you explain that hitting hurts people, and they would not like to be hurt that way. Parents need to remain consistent with their reactions to the toddler’s aggressive behavior.
Be Aware of Playtime
You must know how to determine if a toddler is becoming an aggressive child. When you watch him or her play, is there any form of aggression happening? Are toys being thrown, dolls, and stuffed animals being hit? This is the time to stop that behavior. Disrupt the playtime and change the toddler’s focus onto a different activity.
Limit any violence that a toddler may see. Whether this is on television or video games, watching older neighborhood children playing, or even other toddlers. This may seem harsh to remove the child from the environment. It is only temporary until there is no chance for the child to see that.
Many toddlers react aggressively when they are tired or hungry. Again, the inability to express themselves or comprehend what they are feeling is the main reason. If this begins to take place, ask the child if something is bothering him if he is hungry or would like to rest for just a few moments? This may be the end of hitting or bullying behavior.
Overstimulated or Changes Made
Other reasons that could cause a toddler to become mean or act like a bully could stem from a change in their daily life. They begin to feel overwhelmed or overstimulated. They appear not to know what to do. The parent should be prepared to grab the child’s hand and lead him away momentarily to give him a chance to calm down.
Give your toddler a way to release frustrations. This could be by hitting a punching bag or kicking a ball. Some toddlers may be happy just to run until they are tired. Not only should you know and understand what triggers this behavior, but you should also have a plan to release anger and frustration. The toddler should be taught that there are acceptable actions they can take when they feel that way.
Set the Example
Children learn by watching those around them. Set a proper example in all actions to let them see how they, too, can handle the rough spots in life. Do not be the sort of parent who flies off the handle quickly and begins to have an adult-sized temper tantrum. If your child can see their mom or dad act out like that, they will think that it is just fine for them also.
In essence, this is only a phase. As they grow, toddlers will begin to learn how to better deal with strong emotions. They will learn empathy and ways to work out situations without being a bully or using aggressive behavior. If you already know that your toddler has a short fuse, stay near him or her when they are playing with others. Your quick reaction can prevent damage before it starts to happen.
This is why many toddlers do overreact and become aggressive or act like a bully. They do not fully understand or know the words they need to express themselves. When an instance does happen, explain in simple terms. You could say, “You are mad because she has the doll and you want it. We need to take turns and share.”
It is not an easy role you are in as the parent. This will test your patience, your frustration, and your temper. In the long end, it is all worth it when you see your toddler become a caring, kind, and helpful individual. Even if you, as a parent, are frustrated, take the time to explain your emotions to the toddler. Explain how you feel to the child, and show how you are dealing with the frustrations.
Always remember also that a toddler is not yet capable of having self-control. That is a learned behavior and is not taught in one instance. Keep in mind that when your toddler hits you, they do not have another way yet to express this. Stay calm and speak simply. A toddler has a more emotional response than she or he has self-control. If a parent or caregiver can think ahead and have an action plan, helping an aggressive child becomes easier. Reminding your child that there are other ways to deal with anger, frustration, or aggressive reactions, let them know you are always available to talk to.