When Your Child Is Aggressive or Scared
Q. I read your article on Biting, Pushing and Pulling Hair, and I had a question. My daughter is 19mths old and is very aggressive at daycare. She pinches at home once in awhile, but normally is well behaved. What can I do for her at home?
Good question! Here’s what I think you can try.
Any child who hits or hurts other children does this because she’s sitting on top feelings of fear. Hidden fears tighten a child, so that she has little flexibility around others: sharing may be hard, following what others ask her to do might be hard, noticing what other children want to do is hard. Her mind is spending lots of energy trying to keep one step ahead of some underlying sense of insecurity. She may keep herself “busy” with toys or with physical activity, but when she gets close to another child, she can’t help but show that not all is well on the inside. She doesn’t feel connected.
Toddlers rarely get to show all the feelings they have about separating from their Mommies and Daddies in the morning to go to day care, and I would venture to guess that the fear that drives her aggression is connected somehow to being there without you. It’s fine for children to be cared for by other generous, loving adults, and great for them to have the opportunity to build relationships with other children. But to make best use of those opportunities, they need someone to listen to their feelings about being there without you. The day care workers aren’t usually set up to do the extended listening it takes to help a child release her fears. But you can do it!
First, set up Special Time—a time when you’ll warmly, attentively do whatever she wants to do, all the while staying close to her so she can feel your approval—before you head off to day care. This will mean that you need to start your morning routine earlier! You want her to go to day care feeling as connected to you as possible. Spending several Special Times on a weekend, and again on Monday morning, for instance, will give her more of the safety she needs to show you the feelings she’s trying so hard to manage. Stay connected as you transport her to day care, use lots of eye contact, snuggle games, and such. Then, play with her there for five or ten minutes.
Reprinted with the permission of Hand in Hand Parenting. © 1997-2011 Hand in Hand
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