Fighting Toddlers — How To Solve Playmate Squabbles
No matter how sweet little ones are, when toddlers get together on a playdate it’s likely there will be some tense moments. But an angry toddler is usually just a frustrated one — he’s not happy about the situation at hand and may not have the words or means to change things. Sometimes fighting toddlers are experimenting with the concept of cause and effect (what’ll happen if I bop my playmate on the noggin?) or testing how you’ll react. Whatever the cause — and no matter whether your darling duke-ster is the instigator or on the defensive — here’s how to minimize toddler fighting and handle bouts that do break out between angry toddlers.
Before the next playdate
- Give lots of positive attention. It doesn’t take much for little ones to realize that acting out gets them a lot of attention. Counter this notion by showing your toddler that good behavior will earn him just as much or even more attention from you. Pour on the praise when he shares a toy, plays gently, or takes turns. He’ll soon see that doing the right thing gets him the right kind of notice.
- Talk about feelings. Little kids don’t yet have the words to say what they’re feeling, so they often resort to what they do know how to do (push, bite, and hit) to get their point across. So talk about emotions often — practice showing each other what a mad face looks like, or give a musical tip on what to do when tempers flare by singing, “If you’re angry and you know it, stomp your feet.” Once your tot understands what he’s feeling, he’ll be better able to cope when that emotion pops up.
- Talk about consequences in advance. On playdate morning, say something like, “We’re going to have fun today at Josh’s house. Just remember, the rule is no pushing. If you push, we’ll go home.” Most important: Be sure to follow through on whatever rule you set.
When angry toddlers start fighting
- Don’t jump in too quickly. Sometimes fighting toddlers find their own solution to a squabble, and that’s a good thing. As long as no one is getting physically hurt, give the children a minute or two to work things out — they just may surprise you.
- Get tough…with words. Let your child know in no uncertain terms that aggressive toddler behavior like hitting (or pushing or biting or pulling hair) is not okay. Say something like: “No hitting! You’ll give your friend a boo-boo.” Though your edict may not be heeded at first, repeat it as needed, even after you’ve removed him for breaking the no-hitting rule. One absolute no-no: Never hit him. Spanking fighting toddlers would not only send mixed messages about violence, but also undermine their feelings of security and their bourgeoning self-esteem.
- Remove and distract. No matter which one of the angry toddlers was the aggressor, after you’ve stopped the fight put some space between them. Introduce a new supervised activity to focus on, or offer a story or snack. Chances are they’ll be thick as thieves in no time.