All children have those moments of melt-down, aggression, or just plain bad behavior. They can be playing nicely one minute and in the next, a fight has broken out in your living room. Hostilities can errupt for all sorts of reasons. With toddlers, it is usually unthinking and done on impulse, though often can be diverted or redirected. With young children, it is sometimes simply because they don’t have the words and so can’t negotiate or resolve a problem.
Older toddlers quickly learn that fighting, biting, and other kinds of aggressive behavior gets them instant attention. It’s negative attention but it’s better than none at all. It can be caused by jealousy or a shaky grasp of sharing and cooperation; it can also be triggered by losing a game or refusing to hand over a toy, resulting in an outburst of violent fury.
Of course, there’s a difference between the odd skirmish or quarrel and out-and-out fighting. For the more minor arguments, parents should not rush in right away and try to resolve it but rather let the children try to sort it out for themselves and find a solution. But a fight is different and does need your help.
When your child is fighting it is important to help her understand the reason behind the fight but it is also important to let her know that you won’t tolerate a fight. If you allow her to get away with this behavior at home, it will also be seen at school or at a friend’s house, and could possibly lead to regular behavior of this type. Fighting also necessitates discipline and you should have a zero tolerance policy for this kind of behavior. A time-out chair or step, and then a talk after the calming down time are important to implement. Also, keep in mind the lack of logic in smacking your child because she smacked her friend, so spanking is not appropriate. If you are seeing constant fighting at playtime, it is possibly driven by your child’s lack of understanding in what shared play is about. After the time-out, sit down and play with your child, showing her how to take turns.
Along with this is teaching your child respect. Make sure he understands the rules and also make sure that he understands that his actions have consequences. A very young child does not have the understanding that an older child has but all children need to learn that if they hurt someone or break something, they must make amends. It may be as simple as saying “I’m sorry” or it may be that they must save their pennies to replace their friend’s toy that they broke in a fit of anger.
Also important is for parent’s to remember that you are your child’s first teacher. If your child sees poor handling of conflict or you show a lack of respect for other’s feelings, your child will think that they should handle things in the same way.
To read more about child development, please visit Bogart’s Book Store in Millville or your public libraries in Vineland and Millville, Vineland Library and Millville Public Library.