It is part of normal toddler aggression, as is hitting and scratching.
The bloodcurdling scream of a child who has just been bitten by another gets our attention in a hurry. It feels so disturbing. Animalistic, even.
Toddler aggression comes in many forms: the 1-year-old chomping down on a new friend they just met at the park, an 18-month-old scratching their best buddy in the sandbox, a 2-year-old hitting their sister in the playroom. These acts, while seemingly cruel, are rarely rooted in a desire to inflict harm purely for harms sake. In fact, they are normal and often a sign of social and cognitive developments.
The issue typically begins after age 1. They not only start to notice other children as peers to play alongside, they see them as obstacles to getting what they want. They will seek more independence and spend more time experimenting with way to assert themselves and get their needs met.
When these advancements outpace their limited language skills, they are unable to verbalize their desires or get the results they are seeking. It is no surprise, then, that so many 1 and 2-year-old kids interact with peers through physical means. For example, your child will notice another child playing with the truck they want. They will try to assert their desire by first stating, “Mine,” and then grabbing for the toy. If that does not work, they may next resort to biting or pushing.
Sometimes aggression goes too far; if your child is hitting most of the time, if other children are afraid of them or if you have not been able to help them make changes to their behavior, talk to your pediatrician. The doctor might recommend a child psychologist who can help you work through it. But keep in mind that your child will likely outgrow their aggressive tendencies.
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