My 2-year-old is pretty physical—he will slap his sister if he gets angry or grab toys out of her hands.
Q: My 2-year-old is pretty physical—he will slap his sister if he gets angry or grab toys out of her hands. I never saw this behavior in my daughter (who's now 5). How should I handle it?
A: That’s the beauty, and challenge, of having multiple children—no two are the same. The behavior you describe is actually very common at this age, especially for children who are feisty and physical like your son. Why? Two-year-olds do not yet have the impulse control necessary to stop themselves from going for something they desire, even if they have been told countless times to “be gentle” or “take turns.” In addition, most don’t yet have the language skills to verbally express their thoughts and feelings, so their primary means of communication is through their actions. The fact that your son is physical means he is also more likely to use his body to express himself. The good news is there is a lot you can do to help your son learn to communicate and meet his needs without being hurtful to others:
When you see your son in a situation in which he is likely to feel angry or frustrated, try to head it off. If he is eyeing a toy your daughter is playing with, acknowledge that he might like to play with that toy too, but that he has to wait his turn. Then help him choose another toy.
Validate his feelings.
Get down on your child’s eye level and firmly, but not angrily, let him know: It’s okay to get angry. Everyone gets angry. Try your best to show as little emotion as possible. The more intense your reaction, the more intensely he is likely to respond.
Set the limit.
It’s not okay to hit or grab. It is a rule in our family that we can’t hurt others. Help him give the toy back and choose another one.
Suggest other ways to express anger that are acceptable to you.
He might draw out his anger with a red crayon, stomp his feet as hard as he can, or bang on a pillow. The idea is to teach him to express anger and frustration in ways that are not hurtful to himself or others.
Practice sharing. Get a kitchen or other timer and set it for the amount of time each child has to wait his or her turn. This can be a very useful tool for helping children learn to wait as it gives them a more tangible sense of time passing.
The combination of your son developing more language and your consistent limits and guidance will help him learn to manage his emotions and cope with the challenge of sharing as he grows.
Read more about:
You might also be interested in
This session will present skills and strategies to help participants learn how to respond effectively to challenging behaviors in infants and toddlers.
Research shows that when parents react harshly and with emotional intensity, children’s distress tends to escalate, and the problem is less likely to get resolved. Here are some strategies that can h…
The new Pixar/Disney film "Inside Out" elevates the importance of the emotional lives of children and provides a critical message to parents—not just of tweens but of babies and toddlers, too—about t…
Q: My 2-year-old always has to have her way—from what she wears to the bowl she uses for cereal. How can I get her to be more flexible?
Q: When he doesn't get his way, my 19-month-old will scream at the top of his lungs, which is really embarrassing when we are out in public. What's the best way to get him to calm down?