It is natural for toddlers to display aggressive behavior as they develop. Biting, kicking, pinching or clawing, hitting, and temper tantrums are common acts of aggression, and they tend to peak during the early preschool years. While it can be difficult to deal with aggressive behavior at home, you may assume that you have little or no control over aggressive behavior while your child is at preschool. However, there are several things that you can do to reduce your child's aggression at preschool and help them get through their aggressive phase to a more cooperative, empathetic phase.
Educate Yourself About Aggression Triggers
It is commonly agreed that aggressive behavior in toddlers comes from a sense of fear and insecurity. What inspires fear or insecurity in a toddler may be surprising to an adult. It can be as simple as a toy being taken away without warning or watching a parent leave for work. Frustration at being unable to complete tasks or communicate can also cause aggression.
To find out your child's aggression triggers, try keeping an aggression journal for a week or two. Each time your toddler displays an aggressive behavior, make a note of what was going on, who was around, and what your child was doing. Also make a note of what you did to calm them. After a week or so, you should see patterns beginning to develop.
Inform Your Child's Teachers About Their Triggers
When you drop your child off at preschool, have a quick conversation about their aggressive behavior. Warn their teacher about the specific behavior they should watch for and let them know what tends to trigger aggressive outbursts. This will help your child's teacher reduce situations that stimulate aggressive behavior by guiding your child to other appropriate activities.
Model Non-aggressive Displays of Emotion
When your child is aggressive or uncooperative, it is easy to become frustrated. Although it can be difficult, you should try to remain calm, pleasant, and firm as much as possible. You should avoid biting or tapping your child to show them how their aggressive behavior feels to others, as most 2-3 year old children have not yet developed empathy for others. If you do lose your temper and shout, you should apologize and remind your child that is not how your family expresses emotion. Then, tell them why you are frustrated.
Drop Your Child Off Early
Many children become anxious when they feel abandoned or like they have to fend for themselves. If you drop your child off early, their teacher will have more time to create a bond with your child, giving your child a safe adult to turn to while they are at school. Your child will also be able to explore their surroundings while you are with them.
You should not rush your morning routine or reduce your quality time with your child to drop them off early. Instead, consider waking up earlier or switching your child to a later start time if you feel rushed in the mornings.
Consider Transferring Your Child to Another Preschool Group
Within the same preschool center, there may be several different styles of classes. Each teacher creates a slightly different environment. If your child does not do well in a high energy classroom, consider asking them to be switched to a less intense class. If they do not do well in large groups, ask if there is a smaller class option available. However, you should not switch your child if they are having problems with a particular student in their class. Instead, you, the teacher, and the other child's parents should work together to teach your children how to coexist in the same classroom.
For most children, aggression is a phase that passes as their self-sufficiency and ability to communicate increases. If your child struggles with extreme or long-term aggression, speak with their teacher and pediatrician about resources for help. For more information or advice, contact pre-kindergarten programs.