When you first bring home your baby, as difficult as things can get, they are still pretty straightforward. But as your baby begins to hit those feisty toddler years, deciphering their behavior can get confusing, and figuring out how to respond can be even harder. It can be really stressful when your child shows some disruptive toddler behavior, especially in a social setting, so you may need to decode their aggression. Luckily, there's often an easy solution for your child's frustration and aggression.
Romper reached out to developmental psychologist Dona Matthews, PhD, who says that when children under the age of 3 act out aggressively, it’s not because they are trying to be “bad”. She says that they are likely being disruptive because their emotional habits and language skills aren’t mature enough to effectively communicate what they are feeling.
If your toddler is being disruptive, there are productive ways to handle the situation. Matthews suggests that parents start with regulating their own feelings first, which might be hard to do in a stressful situation. But she notes that displaying calm and loving connectivity can make you a good emotional model for your child, and it also sends them a message of unconditional love. Rather than sending them into a time-out and shutting the dialogue down completely, Matthews says that you should show them understanding and respect by acknowledging their emotions and feelings.
However, to get to the root of your child’s frustration, you’ll need to do a little collaborative digging. “Children don’t have the self-awareness or the communication sophistication to know what’s going on or to explain,” she explains, “so ask yourself what the child is trying to communicate.” She says once you come up with a hypothesis, you should discuss it with your toddler to see if you can collaboratively solve the problem at hand.
There are numerous reasons your toddler is being disruptive, so here are five reasons that are worth considering in the moment.