Giggle parenting with an aggressive toddler? – Reader Question N.O2

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Dear Kate,

I liked your giggle parenting article and it said at the bottom to contact you with any issues needing a resolution.

My 22 month old boy has suddenly become aggressive and violent especially towards me. If he falls he turns and hits me. If he wants to feed he hits and headbutt. Anything not to his liking he lashes out repeatedly. I’ve tried ‘sportscasting’ I’ve tried telling him it hurts and makes mummy sad. I’ve tried restraining him gently b I’ve tried removing myself and walking away from him for a few minutes. All just makes him hit worse.

He wasn’t like it before last week. He’s always been affectionate and sweet. Now he can be sat quietly then out of nowhere explodes with frustration and fury. It’s really distressing me. Is there a gentle way out of iy? Giggling wouldn’t make light of a serious issue? Please help, From ‘E’

Dear ‘E,’

thanks for your message. I had a similar experience when my daughter was 1 year old, she suddenly started biting me out of nowhere, and it became a daily occurrence.

I’m glad you’re reaching out for help as it can be really great to help our children’s aggression problems when they’re still young, and this reduces the likelihood that they will lash out at others as they get older. It’s great that you are thinking about gentle ways to deal with it, and explaining why you don’t want to be hit.

The Hand in Hand parenting approach that I teach is based on the observation that our children are all naturally, good, loving and co-operative, and they really don’t want to hit us, their siblings or their friends.

Aggression usually happens when a child feels scared. It could be a relatively harmless situation, — like a small fall at home that triggers your son to hit you, or with a child at pre-school who has a toy snatched from him. These small everyday moments can trigger bigger fears, often from times in our child’s early life, where they felt scared of overwhelmed. It could be that our child had a difficult birth, or some medical treatment. Or it could be just the accumulation of stresses from living in a busy, fast-paced world that causes children to get full up of feelings that sometimes come out through aggression.

Giggling can help, and rough and tumble play is particularly helpful when it comes to aggression, because it gives them an outlet for the aggression. In this article here I’ve got 25 ways to heal aggressive behaviour through play and laughter. It also has some tips for what to say in the moment, and how to set a limit when our child is aggressive. I explain that children can differentiate quite well between what is play and what is real, so we can play around the topic of aggression while still setting limits on ‘real’ aggression.

As well as laughter and play, listening to children’s emotional upsets is also a really important factor. When children get to cry freely with a loving adult to listen and offer cuddles, rather than distracting them and trying to stop the tears, then this can really help them to release any stress or tension that comes out through their behaviour. You might find that after lots of laughs and giggles, you son might fall over, and have a big cry about a small hurt. This can be a sign that he’s healing from a backlog of feelings not related to the present moment, and that listening to him can help him to release the feelings so they don’t come out in aggression.

Sometimes this kind of play and deep listening can be really challenging for us. It can sometimes trigger memories of times when people were aggressive to us as a child, and it can take a large amount of patience to keep playing as long as our children want to, and listening when they get upset. Listening partnerships, can be really helpful in giving us lots more stamina for playing and listening.

For more information about this listening approach works you might want to check out Hand in Hand Parenting’s self-study course Helping Children With Aggression.

I hope this helps! Kate

Have you got a parenting challenge you’d like a laughter-solution for? Leave a comment below, or pm me via facebook

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