Aggressive 2 Year Old Boy

Updated on August 22, 2009
B.N. asks from Costa Mesa, CA
8 answers

My son will be 2 next week and over the past 2 weeks he has become aggressive especially towards the one boy at daycare (there are only 2, my son and the other child). They are both the same age and build however my son has taken to pushing the boy down and kicking him. I of course I upset about it as my son is not a bad or mean kid but when it comes to this one boy he is aggressive. Is it like the animal kingdom and he is establishing dominance? The other boy is only at daycare part time and has been over the past 4 months so why now?? There have been no changes at home although I am a single mom and he has no contact with his dad. Any thoughts would be helpful. I am looking for positive input not critisim. Thanks!!

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So What Happened?

Thank you ladies for all your helpful suggestions. My son's daycare provider is awesome and handled it right as it happened. She and I are on the same page when it come to discipline & consequences. My son has been at her daycare for 18 months and she is more like an aunt than just some lady who takes care of my son. I have addressed the kicking/hitting/pushing issue and the following day the behavior was repeated and it was handles right as it happen however it was nothing like the first day it happened. The daycare provider is treating it just as serious as I am (the mom of the other boy just dismissed it as "another day at the zoo" which I thought was a bit odd however I was glad that she didn't react badly). We have taken to using the same phrase we did when he was little "nice & gentle" and it has helped. I think that the fact that one of his molars just poked thru had something to do with it as well as he was very grumpy from the pain. All has seemed to return to "normal". I do talk to him everyday on the way to daycare about being nice, sharing and telling his daycare provider if something is wrong as hitting is not acceptable behavior. Thanks again ladies!! It is always nice to get others opinions and see what works for my family. :)

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answers from San Diego on

Hi B.,

Try looking into before anything else. It has worked wonders for my family when nothing else worked.

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answers from San Diego on

Regardless of why, the behavior needs to be stopped...because until this behavior IS stopped, he IS being mean. Mean kids are just kids who haven't been taught not to be. In my experience it's easier/faster to deal with the behavior FIRST and the whys second. Aka...hurting others is just plain and simple not allowed, and THEN start teaching/dealing with the whys and hows.

Now don't fret. ALL kids hit/kick/bite/etc for different reasons. And 2-3 is the single most "age appropriate" time for this to come into play. As long as you don't take "age appropriate" for "appropriate behavior" (like some parents do...argh...You do not KNOW how many times I've watched one kid beat up another to have the parent blow it off as "they're only 2/3/4/5, little, feeling small, asserting their independence, trying to wrestle, etc., and by excusing the behavior based on whatever...are very overtly teaching their child that the behavior is okay and actually encouraging more of the same). So while he's experimenting with mean behaviors, as long as you quash those instead of excusing them he won't become a 'mean kid'.

A parallel is that (I'm sure) your son is not allowed to touch/operate the stove & oven. Not allowed to because he could very easily get hurt. So what you deal with first is that this behavior is absolutely not allowed. Then you look at the whys. Does he want to help? Is he going through an independent phase and wants to cook his own food? Is he curious about x,y,z? Just going for a reaction? Feeling lonely? Once you've stopped the behavior, and then look at the why, you can work with those. You'd never just let him reach up and put his hand on the hot'd stop him.

The knocking others down and kicking another child, is parallel to the stove...except for stopping him from hurting're stopping him from hurting others.

You'll find other parents pathetically grateful as you deal with these behaviors. We ALLLLLLL go through this, so as a rule we tend to be pretty forgiving, as long as it's obviously being dealt with and not just diverted/ignored/encouraged. <Grinning> So don't be afraid to appear mortified OR calm, and don't be afraid to "stop everything" to deal with this stuff as it comes up. Because it always starts in one environment and moves to another. (The scientific, "well if it's not okay at school and my teacher, is it okay at the park with my mum?" sort of unconscious thing.) So he knocks down another kid at the park and you run up and stop it, apologize to the other child, have him apologize to the other child, do the timeout&talk thing or go straight home and timeout & talk don't need to be embarrassed one bit. It happens and you dealt with it.

In the beginning we had an absolute "you don't hurt other people (on purpose)" rule. That gradually changed into "the only time it's okay to hurt someone is if you're defending yourself or somebody else" rule.

People go about teaching this in different ways. What we did was unilateral punishment, each and every time right then...or either the being very disappointed OR the "I heard you were having a hard time being a good friend today? What happened/what could you do different next time?" thing...if it had already been handled and dealt with by a teacher/grandparent/etc.

Ideally, however you discipline, the discipline should be consistent. Not just at home, but by you childcare provider. This doesn't necessarily mean the same types of punishment, but a complimentary style of discipline. This isn't always possible, but it's definitely an ideal to shoot for. :) I've actually disallowed my son from certain people/environments because their form of disciplining my child was just a very very bad fit (Overly permissive/distract and allow him to continue playing after he hurt someone instead of yelling and screaming...all the way to spanking my child for splashing water in the bath). None of which were okay in my book...although I felt super comfortable in allowing around 20 other people I knew to discipline him, even though their methods were different from mine, they were complimentary.

<Laughing> Ack. This has gotten long again. Big hugs to you girl, this is a hard phase.

Good Luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Deanna and, especially, Riley, were right on in their advice. To write this off as "just a phase" or "just a willfull boy" is to ignore what might already be a problem, and won't resolve on it's own. THIS IS NOT THE ANIMAL KINGDOM. It is not OK for a child to act this way without repercussions, because it is not OK for a grown person to act similarly. Please consider the big picture here, and try to have a balanced approach, including with the caregivers you have in your son's world. I do suspect that a lack of appropriate male role models has your son confused and acting out in inappropriate ways. Appropriate behavior must be learned, and it is best learned by being modeled. Not every kid has the benefit of a Mom & Dad, both present and good, but every one should have some of that and some proxy for the rest. It really is important; I think essential.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Single Mama here, and here's what I have come up against in the past...boys (and girls too) have to learn HOW to deal with and channel their emotions. With my son who DOES see his Dad daily in fact, this is still an issue.

Boys are automatically met with the thought that he's just 'a boy' and well, that is fine if you're okay with your kid being the bully and beating people up for looking at him sideways. I understand how you feel. My son is kind of showing his alpha-male persona already, but this started at around 16 months when he threw his first big tantrum.

First, talk to your son and ask him questions. Teach him how to reason with his anger/frustration and control his temper. This will take time. Ask him why he hits the little boy in class? Ask him if he's made at him? Explain that it's not okay to hit people for any reason.

Talk to his daycare provider and find out what they do about. Make it a joint effort to come up with a plan that is consistent and follow through on any discipline that you both have to do to squish the behavior.

Kids benefit a lot from examples. There are some great books like 'Hands are not for Hitting' that explains what hands are for. You can get them on and in bundles they are pretty well worth it.

You might want to try a rewards chart that travels with him to school? If he gets stars or points the whole week he can have a treat like ice cream or a small toy and for the whole month something special like a trip to the zoo or Chuck E. Cheese (if you're okay with it). Some kids just need reinforcement and the rewards/points system shows them visually that they are being rewarded for the good things too.

While nothing may have changed with his routine or schedule, something small may have set off the behavior change. Like with my son, even the smallest thing can set him off and we sit together and talk about how to handle his feelings at the moment. He's gotten pretty good at telling me when he's mad or sad or happy and that has taken the last year of repitition and some tough moments, but if you work as a team you can do it.

Also, does he have any male role model? Like an uncle or grandpa? Maybe as he gets older you could look into finding out about big brother programs so that he has someone he can relate to on that level. I don't know what I'd do without the boys in my family!

Just remember to relax and don't stress, you guys will get through this in time. Just find a groove that works for you both and keep in consistent.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Daycare provider should be diligent to provide good, guidance here - understanding that this is a normal part of toddler development. She needs to take care of it as it happens, so unfortunately with his age, I don't think there's too much you can do later in the day by talking to him. The daycare provider should be immediately demonstrating the right behavior toward the other little boy so she can show him what his other, more preferrable choices could be in a situation. Being 2, he is too young to really do time-outs, etc. But she should take care to prevent these situations before they happen, and praise when your son makes the right choice each time! Don't worry, it's just development and doesn't mean he's aggressive - just trying to figure out how the world works! With repetition and encouragement, he'll get it.

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answers from Los Angeles on

i think my son went thru a phase around this age too of being aggressive..i bought 3 books "Hands Are Not For Hitting" "Mouths Are Not For Biting" and "I Can Share" i also had him watching shows like "Yo Gabba Gabba" they actually tell kids to be friendly..then i would give him the "be a friend if u want to have friends" speech before he goes to play..i do that every time now before i drop him off for school..sometimes he grabs kids..when he does i remove him immediately from the playground and we go home..he did it a couple of days ago at the zoo..they have a playground so we left the whole zoo..he has to learn he can't do that..

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answers from San Diego on

I am with Marie, and find some responses a bit "intense." A little boy suddenly having a little self-control issue is something that can happen in any home so ignore insinuations that this might have to do with your marital status. Work with the daycare person and all will be fine. Good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

B., When your daycare provider gives you end-of-the-day updates, is she just telling you the "aggressive behavior" part, or is she telling you what is leading up to that behavior? Your son probably cannot fully verbalize what is happening and why he is choosing that behavior; your provider is hopefully sharing the entire story with you. Also, how is she addressing the behavior? Is she being consistent? Does her idea of guidance match your idea of guidance for your child? Have a talk with her about the words she is using in these situations, as well as her tone. You & she should be on the same page in this area. At the beginning of your son's day, try reminding him of the expected behavior - be specific, not just "be nice/good today". Suggest he tell Miss ____ if he needs helps with the other boy; to him use his hands to help his friends or to color, not for hitting and to use his feet for running, etc., and not for kicking. It can make a difference when we remind them of what to do instead of telling then what not to do. Your son is lucky to have a mom who is looking for positive ways to deal with this situation! Peace to you, B.

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