Aggressive behavior in the toddler through preschool years can be completely normal. The important thing to bear in mind is that when a child is exhibiting aggressive behaviors, it provides a golden opportunity to teach, support and guide them into more socially acceptable responses.
What children become aggressive?
All children can become aggressive in certain given situations. Some children become aggressive when there are stressors in their lives. And some children come to rely on aggressive behaviors. But, this does not have to be the case.
To punish or to teach?
When kids have trouble zipping zippers...we teach.
When kids have trouble tying shoes...we teach.
When kids have trouble buttoning buttons...we teach.
When kids have trouble getting along with others...we teach?
It's a normal part of the learning curve:
Kids don't come into this world knowing how to do much of ANYTHING. We often think it normal to teach kids how to tie shoes and zip zippers, but when kids act aggressively, it’s as if it sets off a whole other chain of reactions within us. Rather than reacting to these behaviors, we need to respond in a way that helps them learn a better way to do it next time. We need to teach them social skills, as well as academic skills.
Save the labels for jelly jars:
I would hesitate to slap a label of "aggressive" on any child in the toddler through preschool years. As a matter of fact, I would hesitate to slap a label on any child of any age. Nor would I recommend labeling adults. You get the idea.
Many developmental leaps are taking place in a child's life during these early childhood years and kids just don't have the verbal skills to negotiate or problem solve. That’s where loving, caring adults come in. We CAN teach kids these skills and help them become more empathic and kind.
All things considered:
When I am consulting to early childhood programs for problems with aggressive behavior, the first thing I ask is if there is speech delay in the child who is identified as having some aggressive behaviors. Speech delays can also contribute to aggressive behavior.
If there is a speech delay, and even if there isn't, I would strongly recommend looking into "signing" with a young child, to assist him/her in becoming successful in the behavioral realm. Signing can make all of the difference in the world of a young child. Signing Families has some fabulous resources to help with teaching a young child (and parents and teachers) how to use signing to prevent such behavioral problems.
Finally, for those kids who tend to rely on aggressive and challenging behaviors, it may be that they enjoy a rather intense temperament. If this is the case, we can begin to teach them some better ways to handle their intensities.
This book is a not to be missed book about how your own issues impact your responses and reactions to your child's behavior. Good stuff:
And peace shall echo throughout the land!