17 answers

12 Mo Sudden Aggression?

My sweet little girl is in daycare. Recently, a few things have changed at home and in daycare. She's now showing some aggressive behavior (hair pulling, smacking, etc.). We don't hit at home, even in playful banter. We surely never hit her. Each month for the last few, her daytime naps have become less frequent and shorter duration and it seems like the only way to get her to nap is for me to hold her and rock her for an hour on the weekends. Else, she just goes to bed at 6pm and wakes around 6am.

At home, on the weekends, we've tried to let her "cry it out." This can only go on for so long, but we've been attempting this at home recently more than ever (it was never this much of an issue).

At daycare, there is a new caretaker in her room and my husband and I do not care for her attitude or demeanor around our daughter. Now that she's just shy of 1, she'll be moving to another room soon with different workers. We've loved everyone that was in there before, but this one is just mean spirited we think.

I can't tell if her aggression (since it's mostly only at daycare anyway) is a direct result of the new person, or if it's possible that she's angry/upset that we let her cry for long periods of time at home to get to sleep.

Does anyone have suggestions? We've tried things at home, but daycare is a different issue with the whole nap thing.



What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Funny...the worker suddenly went out on disability and resigned. I wonder if the disability was her conscious kicking in.

Featured Answers


All children change occasionally as they grow. BUT this is a different change and not good, I say it's time to change daycare providers, something is going on there that isn't good.



I would definately be concerned. I would pop in sometime when you are unexpected and take a peek at things. It sounds like either the teacher or a student is picking on her and she doesn't know how else to vent her frustrations.

More Answers

Hi C.! I would definitely say that she is reacting to the change at the daycare. Daycares are a necessary evil for us mothers, aren't they? I say that because I have one little girl, and she went through an adjustment period when I started her in daycare a couple years ago. But I digress.

I really don't think she is acting about because she is 'angry' about your attempts to let her cry it out.

A few questions: What time does the daycare commence naps? Are you able to put her down for naps at the same time at home? I would also ask the staff (or since you're not comfortable with that person, call the manager or director directly there) what they are doing in terms of naptime. What is the routine? Do they have a period of quiet-down before going to their mats for nap? Do they play 'naptime music' when the kids lay down?

I'm wondering if you or your husband could show up unannounced one day soon to see what's going on, but I know that may not be feasible for everyone.

I think the new behaviors are normal; you just have to teach her they are not acceptable. All kids hit until you teach them it's not OK; it's natural to try it out. She has probably also seen other kids act that way at day care. She is at the age where tantrums may begin; our daughter started tantrums right before 1 year old, and then they subsided when she saw we ignored them. The tantrums come in waves; they started again around 18 months and I think they are on their way out again now about a month later after she saw once again that they still don't work.
For naps, day care will throw off her schedule. It is possible that if she is getting a good 12 hours sleep at night that she doesn't need a nap, but if she is cranky and fussy and obviously tired that's not the case. What we did was say that we would let her cry for 20 minutes and if she wasn't asleep by then we would go get her. Use a timer or watch the clock because 5 minutes sounds like forever if you don't. If she was awake but babbling and not crying we would leave her there and count it as quiet time even if she didn't nap. What I also do is time a visit to the park so that she will fall asleep in the stroller on the way home.
For the caretaker, it's an uncomfortable situation no matter what. You can ask her directly why she acts a certain way toward your daughter. You can ask the other teacher in the room, which is probably what I would do, or you can ask the director. You can ask the director to move your daughter early if she's just a few weeks away and that might solve the problem easily. Good luck.

Hi C.,
First, with sleep issues... new caregivers (especially ones that are not warm and fuzzy, let alone meanspirited!), or any change in a baby's schedule or routine, especially a primary caregiver, takes adjustment time and can interrupt established patterns... it happens to all of us! Perhaps she's also teething too, which may be affecting nap time. I don't think the nap thing has anything to do with you letting her cry it out, though. Kids this age don't remember that stuff long enough to carry it over to the next day. The agression is probably more related simply to being unable to express her frustration in any way except what comes naturally (hitting, kicking, biting, etc.). I'd recommend a book that really helped us, called "The Way I Feel" which you can find at Target... it helps to name and show the faces that go with common emotions, so that your little one understands what these big feelings are that are happening inside her. She is dealing with other kids, new teachers, etc. and has some feelings she has no appropriate way to deal with, hence the agression. My little girl was a hitter... and so what we did was read this book, name her feelings and then give her appropriate responses to the frustration, such as stomping our feet or roaring like a dinosaur when we are angry, hitting our stuffed bunny chair (as the ONLY item in the house that it's okay to hit, when we just can't get this feeling out any other way). We also try to tickle out any other feelings if we can and redirection works great at this age.

I highly recommend the crying it out method... it worked wonders for me and was much quicker than any other method. I won't tell you how hard it is, you already know that... but the sooner you get your 1 year old to go to sleep without rocking, you laying down, etc. is the sooner you get your afternoons and evenings back.

I'm so glad that your daughter will be moving away soon from this poor caregiver. It amazes me that people who really don't like or want to be around kids (and aren't good at it!) go into jobs in daycare! Anyway, that will definitely affect your girl and her moods, routine, etc. My little one is 2 1/2 and just moved into a different room... immediately, things were different than they had been, even though she was proud to move up to a big girl room... the teacher was not engaged, not positive and I could feel that there were issues, even as I could not put my finger on them. In less than a month, thankfully, the center realized the same thing and asked the parents about moving another teacher who had had the kids before and was really good with them, into the new room. The first day that that happened, it was a whole new world! Instead of dreading going into her room and screaming for me as I left, she would barely give me a backward glance and it was all I could do to get a kiss goodbye! That's the way it SHOULD be... so trust your gut and get her out of the bad influence's way ASAP. You will find out the difference right away, I'm sure.

Good luck!

My 2 cents...
I don't think crying it out at home would have anything to do with aggression toward other children at school. That being said, there really is no reason for you to use the "cry it out" method if you are uncomfortable with it and are feeling any guilt about it (which is what it sounds like). There are other methods that you can use to help her fall asleep without rocking for an hour or letting her cry it out. You can read Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for the full instructions of what to do, but basically it has to do with only holding and rocking her until she is no longer crying and upset and then lay her down while she is awake. As soon as she gets upset and crying again, go ahead and rock her again, but only until she calms down and then immediately put her down again. This may go on as a cycle of rock/put down/cry/pick up/repeat for an hour or so the first night and will lesson each night and should work itself out within a week if you stick with it and truely calm her when she is upset but put her down awake. It also only works if you time it right-- she has to be tired but not so overtired that she's cranky when you start. Anyway... the aggression may very well be a result of the new caretaker. I suppose you'll know when she switches to the new class. Speak with the director and let her know you love the school but your daughter has not been doing well with the new teacher and be honest about your concerns-- see if they will go ahead and switch her to the new class early. Can't hurt to ask!


All children change occasionally as they grow. BUT this is a different change and not good, I say it's time to change daycare providers, something is going on there that isn't good.


I would think it has to do with the worker. If you and your hubby's opinion of her are not that great, you are probably right. I don't think it's the cry it out thing, because I did that with my very high spirited little girl at 12 months. It took 3 months of crying it out every night. Sometimes it lasted 1-2 hours. She actually was happier every morning and day. It seemed to change her to a happy demeanor rather than an aggressive one.

Either way, I think at one point or another kids will pick up some sort of aggression as they learn how to handle their feelings. She may be at a stage where she wants to communicate more, but just doesn't know how yet.

Sounds like you're great parents. Good luck.

I went through something similar with my daughter when she was 2 (she's almost 8 now). I spoke with the director at her child care center and it turns out that I wasn't the first parent to complain about the new assistant in my daughter's class. Once the assistant was removed, my daughter very soon went back to her lovable self.

I would not think that the issue with the daycare worker would affect her napping. Although how and when they put the kid down for naps AT the daycare could. Do you follow the same schedule on the weekends that your daughter is on during the week at the daycare? Check with the daycare for details about what they do and see if keeping it the same at home on the weekend helps. Keep in mind that kids do give up naps at different ages and yours might be one of those who gives them up early. But I think 12 mo. is too early to give them up completely.

As for the new worker, that, in my opinion, could very well be related to the aggressive behavior you're seeing. She sounds frustrated. And at 12 months, her ability to express that is limited. You might ask to move her up now, or relate your concerns to the administrator at the daycare. But if you choose to move her up early, be aware that as your daughter moves up, the kids in her class will also be older (as much older as the oldest age allowed in the class) and she will be likely to learn things that you are not expecting yet. (You will also see this when she is around kids her own age that have older siblings - b/c they will have been exposed to much more mature things than your child, most likely. We learned this when our son was 4 yr old and had never been in daycare, etc. His best friend was a boy, also 4, who had a brother who was about 12).

Good luck and do what your gut tells you as far at the daycare.

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