Toddler Aggression: Is this normal?
What happened to my sweet child? The one that liked to cuddle and hug me?
Foster will be three in May and let me tell you, this sudden change in behavior is awful. Thinking back on it I do recall the boys hitting a significant change in behavior when they were almost two. Thankfully, Everett is still acting like his sweet self. I don't know what I would do if they were both acting out.
So what changed? I honestly think this is just another big leap Foster is going through and since he is delayed in his speech he is quicker to resort to anger and lashing out. He will smack, kick, hit, bite, flip chairs, throw toys and headbutt. It's to the point where we are desperate for help. One of my big things is I really want to try to avoid spanking. Not that I think parents who spank are terrible or anything, I just would prefer to not be physical if possible.
This morning we had a parent teacher conference with Foster's teachers and here is what they had to say: This type of display of behavior at his current age is not uncommon. It is also probable that his speech delay is propelling the speed of him blowing his top.
It seems that although he does display some of this behavior at school, it is predominantly happening at home. And I have to say, a lot of his hitting, kicking and biting has been towards me personally. Which honestly hurts my feelings, haha, but I know he is just a toddler so I have to let that go and supply support and comfort. That's so much easier said than done, especially when he is smacking me in the face! I mean, sometimes I just have to walk away because I'm going to lose it. It's hard because we have this idea in our head of how the perfect parent would behave, but the truth is, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Have I yelled in anger? Yes. Have I swatted a butt once or twice? Sure. I'm human! Does that make me a bad parent. Of course not, but that mama guilt is a real thing. So what I'm trying to do is focus on changing my behavior and on what is in my control. And let me tell you, kids just know how to push every single button so don't feel bad if you lose your cool here and there. You're human and I'm certainly not going to judge you.
Okay, so what did the teachers suggest we do? Here is a list of things I plan to start doing per their suggestions:
Create a Quiet Corner - Not to be confused with a time out chair because this is totally different. This is a safe place that your toddler can go to when they are throwing a temper tantrum, feeling frustrated or having anxiety. It's important to fill this space with calming things and things that will help them find a release and some relief depending on their current emotions. Things like a sensory bottle. These are so easy to make. Fill an empty water bottle about one-third full with water. Add a few drops of food coloring. Once the food coloring has spread throughout the water, fill the rest of the bottle with baby oil or cooking oil. Secure the lid with superglue. Your child can put the bottle on its side to see the waves or shake it to see the oil and water separate. You can add glitter or sand if you want to! Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Pillows and a nice blanket are good things to add to your quiet corner space. We have a batter operated diffuser and I plan on keeping that on stand by with some lavender. When Foster melts down he seems to want to throw and hit. I think we will channel that energy to the pillows and maybe some stress balls. So give a firm "<Insert whatever word here> (hitting, kicking, biting, throwing) is not okay" and then off to the quiet corner we go. Make sure that the tone is firm, but not like an "I'm angry at you" tone, if that makes sense.
Start Practicing Breathing Techniques- I'm not going to lie, I've tried this and it's worked 50% of the time for me. But I'm not ashamed to say I haven't stayed consistent so I'm guessing the success rate will improve once I actually implement these changes and stay consistent. I usually say "Lets take 3 deep breaths, Foster" and then I will count and say breathe in and make a very exaggerated deep breath and say breathe out and make sure its overly dramatized, haha.
A Tight Hug - Okay, so this was also suggested in the parent teacher conference and I got to be honest and say, I don't know if this is going to work for Foster's temperament, but I'm willing to try it. It has to be better than what I'm doing now...which is winging it. They suggested that he may be seeking that sensory output and that giving him a tight squeeze may help.
My biggest thing is that I want my kids to know that it's okay to feel and show these emotions, we just can't cause harm or have negative outlets for them. I ultimately think being consistent and calm in your approach is key. If you sometimes give your child what they want when they have tantrums and you sometimes don’t, the problem could get worse. That's why my wife and I are trying to come up with a plan and stay on the same page. If you're going through the same thing then I hope this has offered some ideas on how to handle the tantrum, but most of all I hope it'd provided some comfort. You're not alone. You're not a bad parent. You will get through this. Just try to take it one day at a time. And of course, if you need a friend or someone to confide in, I'm here.