By Vanessa Dominguez
There is nothing more priceless than looking into your toddler’s eyes and hearing her sweetly say, “Mama” or “Dada,” or experience those sweet hugs she has started to give. They give you that feeling that her life is a blessing and you think to yourself how worth it everything is now that you are a parent.
However, not only has your little one learned to hug she has also learned to hit. You wonder where she got this from, you don’t hit, she’s never witnessed anyone hitting, so why is she doing this?
The answer is aggression. Your toddler is feeling many emotions as she continues to grow and at times is on an emotional roller coaster. This is normal. Remember all those times she wants to be held and picked up only to wiggle her way out of your arms as soon as you do? This is because she is developing and her mind may not be made up at any given moment. Her vocabulary is growing at a faster rate than her comprehension skills.
So if aggression is to blame, is there a healthy way to release it? What about taking her to the park, allowing her to kick a soccer ball or throw a baby-sized bounce ball? Exercise is the best and most healthy way to release aggression for children as well as adults. If it is too cold to go outside to play, there are still options.
Indoor play such as running, dancing and jumping can be helpful. You may also let her play with play-dough and let her mold and pound the dough. Toddlers love pillows. Under close supervision, allow her to pick up pillows, stack them, remove them from the sofa, and put them back where they belong.
The worst thing you can do when she hits is to hit back or reach in a manner that may scare her. When she hits, an immediate timeout is in order. Let her know that hitting hurts and focus on “gentle” touch. Praise when she does gentle touches. Use one of her favorite stuffed toys and practice “gentle” touches often. This will get her used to what is expected of her. Touch her cheek gently while saying the word “gentle.”
Soon you will notice improvement. Remember, the more attention you give an action, whether negative or positive, the more you reinforce it.