Discpline for Aggressive 2 1/2 Year Old

Updated on February 08, 2009
K.B. asks from Gardnerville, NV
19 answers

My 2 1/2 year old boy is pretty aggressive with other kids. He is big for his age and doesn't know his own strength yet. Sometimes this is in response to frustration or rejection by the other child and sometimes it is unprovoked. He seemed to be getting better for awhile, but is getting more aggressive again. I have mostly tried time outs and leaving the area (ie. leave the park if the incident happens at the playground). Any thoughts?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the input, it helps to hear I'm not alone in this struggle. I will continue to have him apologize and give a TO, then on the second strike leave the scene. I know the consistency is crucial as well.

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answers from Fresno on

Just give him as much love as possible. I have just started reading a book I got from a parenting class and love it. It's at the library and on ebay. It's called 1-2-3 magic! Love it love it love!!!

I have three children 5 yr boy almost 4 yr girl and a six mon boy



answers from Sacramento on

Hi K., you need to talk to my friend, she has a child with similar problems. Call me I will connect you whith her.
A. ###-###-####.

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answers from San Francisco on

Hello K.,

My son is 3 1/2 and can be very aggressive. He goes to a wonderful preschool, Albany Preschool, where we have regular parents meetings with a guest who makes a presentation about a particular topic. That's how I have been introduced to the concept of "the spirited child " and the different temperaments that each one of us is born with.

I've been reading the book " Raising your spirited child "form Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and now I'm taking a class at Bananas, Oakland, called " Living with spirited children".
It really helps me understand my son's perspective and how to share mine to him.
I want to teach him what is gonna be helpful for him for his entire life and at the same time I don't want to encourage destructive behavior. I understand now that energetic kids with high intensity need more effort to control their impulses than kids who have less energy and intensity. I don't think that I can support my child controlling his impulses by punishing him over and over. I want to be clear about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, but I don't want to bully him the same way he's bullying others.
But of course I'm sometimes worn out and have no patience for understanding an annoying behavior and how to "problem-solved" it.
I'm sure though you could get a lot of checking this book or another that shows a positive approach to understanding you challenging child.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

Hi K.!

I would absolutely make sure that your son says "sorry" for anything he does that is unacceptable to you. You need to walk him over to the other child he hit, and make him say sorry, if even the other child cannot understand his words. Your son might "hide" behind your leg, or something, and that is fine. But he needs to be accountable for his actions, and apologizing is tougher to do than a timeout.

At 2, he's obviously learning boundaries :o) This is one of those boundaries he will push. You only mentioned that he gets aggressive with other kids when he doesn't get his way, etc....I am wondering if he gets aggressive with you, as well.

As cute as they are at 2, it is a crucial time to let your son know his boundaries, and that you are serious about them.

When you go to the park next time, don't be too far away from him. If/When he does hit another kid, make him say sorry immediately. Your son can keep playing, but if he does it again, make him say sorry then leave.

With your consistency and firm tone, he will catch on pretty quickly.

NOW....if your husband is a "wrestler" and tickler, then you could have a longer battle ahead of you :o) Toddlers can easily learn to "pretend punch" in fun, but carry it out in real life thinking it's funny. They don't always realize that they are hurting someone. It becomes a form of playing to them. So, daddy needs to stick to tickling and not wrestle so much until your son is older and understands better :O)

Good Luck!




answers from Yuba City on

Hi K.. I completely understand your problem.. My son has always been aggressive as well..since he was 1 1/2 and he has always been huge. Other mothers look at you crazy, like what is your problem, they judge you, it's reallly hard! My most memorable incident is when we went to Mcdonalds I had both my one yr old and my son who was 3 at the time with me .. the place was overly crowded, my son saw some older girls being a little rowdy so he joined in but they didn't want to play with him so he tried to play with the younger kids the same way.. of course I kept trying to divert him in other directions.. then he went around pushing other kids to get their attention. Another Mom came up to me obviously not seeing my efforts and said your son is pushing all the other kids. I just looked at her crazy and said "thanks for telling me". I was really upset. A few minutes later I had to literally drag him out because I was done with the whole thing. When I left the other mother was laughing at me as I was walking out because I was having such a hard time!!!! After that I never went to an open playground like that one by myself without my husband! Now that he's older he does play much better with kids... what really helped was preschool..there's rules there and they have to follow them. I picked a preschool that had behavior specialists teachers! He's 4 now and he still can be a little overwhelming to the timid type kids but he is a lot better now! My mom always told me that people would expect my son to act older because of his size.. they still do!! You have to remind people how old he is and watch them change their attitude!..I still do it and they say he looks like he's 6 or 7 not 4!! Another option that I didn't opt for was to take him to the local child behaviorist through the county so it is free, they observe your child in your home and see how you interact with him and give you feedback.. a lot of times they say it's the way the parents dicipline and stuff..which to a certain extent is true but they look at things a little different. I really wish you a lot of luck.. don't worry if you nip it in time it will get better!



answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.,

My son was the same way, especially before he could express his anger verbally. I think it helped to try to get him to talk about it, or instead of taking it out on the other kids to jump on pillows, run around the room(fast), anything that helps him show his power, and keeps him busy during that frustrating time. I've heard some moms have their sons draw out how they feel, or show their anger on a piece of paper. My son liked the physical stuff. Oh, one more thing, wrestling with Daddy was huge. This was the time that he was allowed to roll around and get physical, espcially when he's bigger and more advanced than the kids physically this helps.

One more thing, books:
How to Talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk


Parenting with Love and Logic

Good luck,



answers from San Francisco on

A wonderful resource for many parenting issues, including aggression, you can find at


I've given you the link to the pamphlets page. These are inexpensive and a quick read for us busy parents! They are $5 - $7 each. Full of compassionate and wise information. Patty is an amazing woman - we started her workshops in our Pre-school. So many parents are benefiting and their children are blossoming. Of course, check out the philosophy on the home page to see if it fits for you. All the best!




answers from San Francisco on

Does he respond appropriately to sounds? Our friend's child did not hear well, and would respond aggressively because he was startled. He was tested, had a simple procedure, and is now an honor student and a "gentle giant" with his friends.



answers from Sacramento on

Hi K.,

I have the same problem with my little guy who is now 3. I have found that communicating with him and teaching communication consistently has slowly but surely worked. I sympathize with you... parents do look at you like you aren't doing enough or like you're a bad parent, but I really believe that some kids (and I will generalize and say boys) are more aggressive and have a harder time controlling it. In our case our son has had some sensory issues that cause frustration, but he also just seems to have a hard time with impulse control. He knows that hitting is wrong, but his frustration escalates so fast that he can't rationalize other behavior.

A few things that have worked for us are being aware of what his triggers are. When he's hungry or tired are not the times to take him places where he has to focus and be on his best behavior. When he does hit we keep it simple. "No hitting, Hitting hurts" and practice nice touches. We also talk about other ways to solve the problem and role play how to share how to use our words etc...

We make sure that he knows the expectations and consequences too. If we go into the grocery store and he wants to walk with the cart rather than ride, we tell him you have to stay with me and you can not pull things off the shelves. If you do that you have to ride in the cart. If that happens and he has to ride in the cart we reinforce with out punitive blaming... Calmly stating... Bobbie, you ran away from Mommy and now you have to ride in the cart." If he makes a scene about riding in the cart he gets a choice. You can stop acting out and ride in the cart or we can go sit in the car until you settle down. Many a time have I left my cart in the store to take my son to the car to cool out. I put him in his seat and I sit in mine and I tell him, "When you settle down and can behave in the store we can go back in." Inconvenient, yes, but I would rather do this that have a screaming tantrumming kid in my shopping cart while I frantically try to finish shopping.

We use the same approach when going to the park. Bobbie, we are going to the park. If you hit other children we will have to leave. And you have to be prepared to follow through every time.

I have doubts about the efficacy of time-outs especially in very young kids... sometimes it seems like the child can't cope and is feeling out of control and it doesn't make sense to me to place a child by themselves and expect them to figure it out. Sometimes kids are overstimulated and need help settling down.

My advice is to check our some of the books that have been suggested. I liked Setting Limits with your Strong -Willed Child and Playful Parenting. Figure out what suits your child's personality and do what works for you and your son. I have people in my life who think that I am not "hard enough" on my son for his behavior, but much of his aggression has come from the fact that he is very sensitive and doesn't know how to deal with those feelings.

Hang in there... as he learns to communicate and control his feelings more he'll grow out of some of it. You can help by being consistent and setting your expectations and also by controlling your own feelings and minimizing your reaction too.

Good luck!



answers from Sacramento on

I have been through the same thing with my son, who is now about to be 6. The first thing you have to be mindful of is, is there someone in his life that he is imitating. For my son, it was his dad who is very dominant. But little kids don't have impulse control and their brains don't work so good. Secondly, boys brains develop slower than female brains and they are completely testosterone driven. The part of the brain that controls impulse will grow and mature, and each year you will see improvements.

Most importantly, is to be consistent and firm. If you tell him hands aren't for hitting, and he hits, he must be removed immediately from the situation. If you can keep him at the event, and get him to look at the child he hurt, then you develop empathy. Have him apologize sincerely, and then take him home for his consequence. Re-assure him that he can use his words and soft touches, but everytime he hit someone he will be removed. Also, try and figure out what he was feeling at the time of his eruption, and teach him the feeling words associated with that experience. Then practice having him use his words - you know role play it out.
It does take longer for some boys to get it. And make sure that if you don't want him hitting, he is not getting hit at home - spanked, etc.

A great book to read is called the "Wonder of Boys", and it really helped me understand what was going on and what I can do.

Good luck.



answers from San Francisco on

I have two girls, and both of them were that way between about 1.5 and 3 years old. As a parent it is awful to watch and go through but have no fear your son will grow out of this stage. My suggestion is this...tell your son no, and that it is not alright to hit/push/etc., that he hurt the other child and that he needs to apologize. Remember tho that you are teaching him that his actions hurt people and while it is ok that he is learning that, he must apologize. If he apologizes then let him return to play but tell him if he does it again you will leave. And see what happens...and he may do it again, and again make him apologize and then leave as you said you were going to. If he refuses to apologize tell him he will go on time out until he is ready to apologize and then you will leave...and DO It...FOLLOW THROUGH IS SO IMPORTANT!!!

Good luck,



answers from Stockton on

that age is tough - they barely speak english - run on adrenaline and are just experiencing anger and other unpleasant emotions an are trying to process all that AND learn new stuff like the ABC's and potty training and it's so overwhelming.
You have to keep on top of the discipline - be consistant & make sure the time out is immediate and a real punishment put him where he can't see or hear TV or music he likes.
I put the TV on BBC or the Weather Channel or Martha Stewart when my son is in time out and he sits on the stairs where he can't see the TV or me but I can hear him if he wiggles, etc. Keep at it - you'll get sick of it - but it does work - just slowly. ;)



answers from San Francisco on

Be careful about what he watches on T.V. everthing is so violent and aggressive. I have raised a daughter and now have a 3 year old son. I have to be very consistant. Also make sure you take him for long walks and lots of activity. Be mindful of sugar intake and artificial coloring etc... makes a huge difference.



answers from San Francisco on

I have a 25 month old boy doing the same thing. Our babysitter says it's his dad trying to be too rough with him, teaching him to be a "boy" at home, then my son goes to day care and plays too rough with his friends there. If you learn any thing from anyone on this sight, I can't wait to hear what they say! Good luck!

K. G.



answers from San Francisco on

I like the leaving the park idea. Natural consequence3s.



answers from Sacramento on

sounds like a adhd child. My son had some of the same things. But, we got him a program call MAGIC 1-2-3 and it works. Put him on native remendies for foucs,adhd and bright spark. everyone said they see a different in his behavior. its all nature's choices. No hard drugs. his doctor doesnt want to put him on medication due to his age. He is too young.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.,

My son also went through this aggressive phase. Luckily, he is growing out of it. Now we only have problems when he is really tired.

I did mostly what you have been doing. We pick up and go on the first incident every time. So, now that he is almost 5 he has mellowed out.

All I can tell you is good luck and he will grow out of it.




answers from San Francisco on

I went through the same thing with my son and the best thing I found was time out (chair, or mat) you need to find the right place for it and then time is 1 min for every year of age, before they get up go to their level and ask them if they know why they are sitting there, make sure they say they are sorry and tell them if they do it again that they will have to sit there again. kids don't like time out and it you are consistent you will notice a change because they will do what ever they have to not to have to sit there again. Good Luck!



answers from Sacramento on

Asking him why is a thought. Sounds like he is frusterated about something. Talk to him and see if anything is bothering him. If he gets upset with rejection you can work on that. Tell him it is okay and you guys can play something else or play with someone else. arrange play dates and let the other mom's in on what is going on so they can help too.

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