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messageViolent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by Beany 16 March, 2012 10:12

My toddler (21 months) is a lively and loving little girl, with an outgoing personality and a huge appetite for fun! She is also quite boisterous and physical, and very determined and headstrong. All great qualities when channeled in the right way, but in recent months she has developed a habit of hitting and pushing other children, and screaming and charging at them every time she feels they are encroaching on her territory (eg at the playground - on a piece of equipment she was using 10 minutes ago!!)

We have tried lots of things: talking to her calmly on her level telling her it's wrong (she loves the attention of this though), giving her one warning and then leaving the park/ friend's house if she does it again (doesn't get it at all!), trying to ignore and distract her to do something else, ignoring her and pouring lots of attention on the injured party - but nothing seems to work. She just laughs and runs off and does it again. The (very) slightly better results have come from not making a dig deal out of it and distracting her, but this approach is not easy when you have other parents staring daggers at you (fair enough though!). All too often we leave a playground within about 15 minutes - and then struggle to try to fill the rest of the morning or afternoon with a solitary activity - a bit sad for her I think. Even her more like minded friends seem to have had enough.

It's come to a bit of a head because she's doing it more frequently at daycare now (where she's been going 3 days a week for nearly a year) and is on report (!!!) - which i think just means they're keeping an eye on her! There they tend to try 1 minute timeouts on a chair away from the others, which she also finds funny apparently. The only time she does not do it (touch wood!) is in a little music class we attend - perhaps the structure and stimulation curb her appetite for mischief?! When she's there she is more into kissing others.

Anyway - any advice?:

What do I do????
How can daycare help with this/ manage her when I'm not there?
Any good non playground activities anyone can recommend?
Why is she like this? ("braces herself")
Is she a future bully?? (personally I don't think so as she's so loving in fact I think she loves other babies too much and can't cope with the excitement, and never does it with menace, but obviously it's a concern!)
Will she grow out of it? When?

Thanks in advance for any insights. Honestly, I wouldn't change her cheekiness for the world, but this is starting to have a negative impact on her days and friendships sad smiley

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by Lochie 16 March, 2012 10:25

Hi beany, i posted something a little similar a few months ago here, you might find some of the responses useful: []

The problem is getting a little better now, it seems mainly now my son's speech has really developed - how is your daughter's speech? The nursery my son attends put alot of his behaviour down to not being able to express how he felt properly due to slow speech. Now he is much more articulate and the 'violence' has petered out a little.

The only other thing that really really worked was removing him from said situations as soon as they happened. e.g. if he was in a fun play session and he hit someone i'd not just remove him from the incident for 5 minutes, i'd take him home so he properly understood that that kind of behaviour is not acceptable. I had spoken to a health visitor about it and she said that really is the best way to drill it into them (that or just a 5 min time out and then returning to play).

I wouldn't worry about your daughter being a bully at all, I think this kind of behaviour is common and have noticed my son being pushed around too. I've just had a baby and the amount of times I've had to use the word 'GENTLY' when my son is around my baby is getting into the hundreds brackets, perhaps your daughter doesn't really understand her own strength. The HV also told us that the reason they can act like this is because its all just a game, gets a rise from adutls, so they do it again and again. Would explain why your daughter laughs about it.

It is really hard and the problem isn't fully resolved for us but I think its getting better slowly over time - I think the older they get and the more they understand consequences the better. My son is now 2.5 years old and for example I always explain that he has upset the recipient of his actions and that he must say sorry. He would not have understood that at 21 months but he does a little bit now. So it might just be a waiting game.

Good luck!

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by Fuschia 16 March, 2012 11:29

Try not to worry about it being a sign of future problems. It's a phase, and a very common one. I am not even sure that you can do much to modify the behaviour... She will grow out of it as her brain and language mature and she becomes more aware of others, and the effects she can have.

Margin Sutherland book 'science of pArenting' is very useful to understand how a chid's brain develops and what can be expected.

It sounds like your daughter will Always be lively and assertive - that doesn't mEan she will carry on being violent, once she leaves toddlerhood behind.

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by canadianlisa 16 March, 2012 17:00

I could have posted a similar thing a few months ago. My daughter who is also very sociable would get into similar situations between the ages of probably 19 months up until fairly recently (she is now 29 months). It was particularly bad at playgrounds etc. She seemed to struggle more when the playgrounds were very busy with other children. It also happened at nursery and although they don't have an 'on report' structure at her nursery she was often in the time out chair as well. It seemed to come to a head just before she she turned 2 and she had a few incidences of pushing much younger children.

What I found helped was as others have said was mainly age and gaining a better understanding of what is 'nice and not nice'. She now clearly knows that it is not nice to hit/push/ snatch/ pull hair/bite etc. This was reinforced by us and nursery. Her language developing made a big difference.

As well I did find it was better to avoid situations that were v. busy- i.e Dulwich park on a hot day and that unfortunately play dates with more than 1 other child did not really work for us. Also keeping an eye out for her becoming overtired and realising that sometimes on the day after nursery she needed a quiet day with me, rather than an overly social one. In terms of nursery there was a big change when she changed rooms to the toddler room for the better as I suspect that she was getting frustrated being with much younger children. In terms of my response I tried hard to remain calm and tell her firmly that it was not nice to hit/push etc and then move on to another activity. If it was all too much we left but not as a punishment per se, rather an acknowledgement it was not working.

It is a phase and not a prediction of future behaviour or a reflection of you as a parent. Having been there I know it can feel very embarassing / difficult to manage. Good luck x

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by summer-ann 16 March, 2012 17:37

I agree that it's a phase and that as her spoken language gets better you can remind her to use her words instead of lashing out. Try to model 'good behaviour' - show her how to approach other children to play with them. Maybe she's trying to play with others and doesn't know yet how. You could say things for her like 'Can I play with you?' or 'Can I have a turn?'.

The one thing I would do is give her clear messages about wanted and unwanted behaviour. If she hits, say a clear 'STOP' or 'NO'. Change your voice for a second - then go back to your usual voice and explain in very simple and few words, why you had to say this. And never allow her to hit you and then laugh or ignore it - hitting is always something she should get a clear NO message about.

This is a great article: []

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by ClareC 16 March, 2012 19:38

Definitely a phase. I had something similar with my daughter at the same age. She would grab faces if she felt she was wronged!! It's horrible to deal with and makes you feel paranoid your turning into a social leper but it does pass and it doesn't take long. I kept her nails short and was grateful to the friends that still saw us!

Play dates at home were worse as they were "her" toys, also easier to manage on small playdates. Would also echo tiredness a huge factor, most incidences occurred when she was tired.

My daughter is 26 months now and it's not happened in a long time. Her speech is pretty good now and her understanding far better which is why I suspect the problem has gone away. I think it's frustration from not being able to communicate. Good luck and don't worry! It's a horrible situation but it passes quickly!

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by Belle 16 March, 2012 19:47

as well as the tiredness thing I've found hunger & thirst a factor. Easy to think 'he's had his lunch', but I find my 3 year old needs to eat little and often or he has a melt down, and if he doesn't drink enough I'm convinced that makes him more short tempered. It kind of makes sense: if they're well rested, fed & watered, they can take the challenges of the playground and play with kids of different ages much better, in my experience anyway.

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by GinaG3 16 March, 2012 20:07

I feel your frustrations, apart from we're the opposite in that the violence with my daughter (now 37 months) is towards us and never other children. She's been very violent with me since late in breastfeeding at about 16 months, I asked for advice on here when I just couldn't take anymore. It's been general hair pulling, biting, scratching, punching, hitting, charging, anything and everything. Her speech has never been slow, at 21 months she could ask for and answer pretty much anything in full sentence. So I knew that was never a problem. I put it down to hormones and just growing up, learning the ropes. We still have bumpy patches now but nowhere near as many as before, she has learnt to express herself differently. It's just a phase don't worry, as long as you remain adamant in the facts that you won't tolerate violent behaviour, I'm sure you have nothing to worry about. We all go through something we struggle with at some point. That's parenting isn't it?!

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by Beany 17 March, 2012 02:42

Thanks so much everyone for the practical advice, empathy and links/ further resources suggestions.

The overwhelming view that it's a phase is really comforting to me! My husband has been saying that all along (cue 'I told you so', when I mentioned forum collective viewpoint!), but I think what shook me was the daycare feedback, as they obviously think it's something to be addressed. However, I get it now that this doesn't mean it's abnormal toddler behaviour, just not desirable!

Really interested in how their little personalities develop and mature over time, and hoping that as others mention - as her language and understanding develops she realises that hitting is not the ideal method for adopting new playmates!! Shes actually the funniest little person I know so let's hope she maintains her comedic personality, without the roughing up of other babies!

Thanks again all xxx

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by BB100 18 March, 2012 14:05

It's very difficult to give advice like this because from what you say you are doing all the right things, so without seeing your child in action it's anyone's guess. I would be inclined to look more closely at what is happening at daycare. If she is on 'report' then obviously they are having trouble with her and they may not be handling it as sympatheticly as you. Your daughter maybe trying to tell you something but she doesn't know what.

Try to keep a diary of what triggers her behaviour and you may find some patterns which may tell you what is going on and give you some ideas of what changes to make - this kind of behaviour is perfectly normal in toddlers, it's just a matter of finding ways to change or manage it.

messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by susyp 18 March, 2012 20:21

Hi Beany I just wanted to send you a message of support as I think all the advice has been given here - and you sound like you are doing absolutely the right things anyway!

My daughter started pushing other children over at 21 months - she continued it until 2/12 to the point where the only classes/groups I did with her were arty ones as she seemed to really calm down then - and they in turn were quiet environments. She is now 3 1/2 and started her school nursery last September. The 6 months prior to that she had largely stopped pushing but could still be very rough and push when angered. She also had a big problem when playing with children who couldn't vocalise as well as her. So I think a great deal if it was due to frustration.

I was absolutely terrified about her starting school - the first two weeks she bit a couple of children - but not in anger - just towards the end (I now think it was due to hunger!) but thank goodness- now she is so well behaved - the teacher is so happy with her. It's almost as though it has given her more empathy as if we see a child in the playground playing up like that she will say - oh it's because they are 2 mummy! . She really is not rough, rude, bad tempered or any of those things, just a very sociable, excitable, enthusiastic, little one. But I went through hell for the year of the two year old and for a long time thought it was my own parenting. So wanted to send you a message to say - it is just a phase - some children just do this. But it is worse when it's a girl as people definitely judge you more! She will grow out of it . Hang on it there.


messageRe: Violent toddler..... what to do?
Posted by Beany 19 March, 2012 09:30

Thanks again for advice/ support. Susyp - sounds like our two are pretty similar, so I live in hope that my little one will come out the other side too - all the more mature and insightful because of it!

We've been practicing 'taking turns', with the result that the other day she sat on the slide and shouted 'My Turn!!!!' to whoever dared to approach confused icon Well, these are complex concepts for small people I suppose....

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