One day when Hannah was about 2 1/2, as we picked her up from daycare, we looked at the photos of her classmates. The images lined the walls – the kids were all smiles, playing together and appearing to have fun. She pointed at one child’s photo and said, “That’s Brayden*. Brayden hits his friends. We say, ‘No hitting, Brayden.'”
I was familiar with Brayden. When he was younger he’d bitten Hannah on the arm, twice. And I was familiar with other kids like Brayden. Kids who Hannah couldn’t play with unsupervised, because they would hit or kick or push or bite. Kids who, when provoked, acted out physically. Or kids who used aggression as a sign of affection. I was just grateful that I didn’t have one of those kids.
Except that now, I do have one of those kids. My 2-year-old Jacob is one of those kids. He chases his sister around the house with the drumstick from his percussion set. He runs up to other toddlers at playgroup and pushes them over in an effort to get their toy / break the ice / crack a joke. He tackles kids who are much older and bigger than he is, and because they have impulse control and empathy, they rarely retaliate.
Jacob and I in a calm moment
I’m not too worried about Jacob’s behaviour, most of the time. I realize that, at his age, he doesn’t understand the impact of his actions on others. I try to be consistent about telling him that we don’t hit, showing him alternatives, and removing him from difficult situations. And I know that we’re not modeling hitting for him in our family. He will, eventually, figure it out. I’ve seen many other kids go through the same sort of thing – hitting their friends as toddlers, but growing out of it as they moved into the preschool years. I suspect that Jacob will do the same.
But for now, I can no longer be the mom who sits and chats with the other moms at playgroup. I have to be the mom who shadows her toddler constantly. And sometimes I have to be the mom who carries her screaming, flailing child out of playgroup after one too many incidents. And then I have to be the mom who reminds herself that her kid is not a bad kid, he’s just a normal kid. A normal kid who expresses his enthusiasm physically, in unacceptable-yet-age-appropriate ways.
Throwing rocks is another one of Jacob’s unacceptable-yet-age-appropriate behaviours
I really hope that Jacob grows out of this soon. Because as much as I disliked watching another kid hit Hannah, I dislike watching Jacob hit another kid even more. I don’t want my son to be the one that his classmates point at and say, “That’s Jacob. Jacob hits his friends. We say, ‘No hitting, Jacob.'”
Have your toddlers gone through periods of physical aggression? How did you handle that? I’d love to know. I’d also love to hear that this is totally normal, and not a sign of future anger management issues. Help a mama out!
* Not the child’s real name.
PS – As you may know, I have started including a link-up with my monthly reviews. The reviews are an informal listing of a few things I learned in the past month. My October review will go live at 6am Pacific on Monday, November 1. If you want to play along, write a post on or before November 1, come here, and link up!