Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What to do about toddler aggression?

"Emmy.. Don't hit mama. That hurts mama. Be nice..."
This mantra has been overheard quite a few times over the past couple of days in our household. Emmy seems to have developed a rather sudden aggressive streak (hitting, biting and pinching) that she is taking out on mama, and only mama. Aren't I lucky??
It comes out of nowhere. I will be washing dishes, or playing a game with her, and suddenly Em will get this fierce, intense look on her face, and OUCH! she delivers a blow. Or several blows.
Now, I have seen my fair share of Supernanny. I know that it is important to make eye contact with your child, to get down on their level and speak to them in a serious, authoratative tone. Thus, I established the mantra. Sometimes, when I look Emmy in the eye and speak to her, she pulls her hands away and seems to have listened. Success! But most of the time, it seems this sets her off, and she gets more upset and hits/pinches with even more anger.
So for the first time in our roles as parents, we have established TIME OUT. C thinks it is important that we use those words in our mantra, i.e.: "Emmy.. Don't hit mama. That hurts mama.... If you hit mama again, I will have to put you in Time Out"
For yesterday's outbursts, we used the crib in Emmy's room as the "naughty chair", but C thinks (and I agree) that creating a negative association with her crib might be quite detrimental in the process of establishing a better bedtime routine. I  have my reservations about a "naughty chair" because I am quite convinced that Emmy will either pop right up from the chair, or try to climb up on it and dance (yes, this is another not-so-great tendency she is starting to develop). If we use a "naughty step", Emmy will almost certainly use it as an opportunity to try climbing up the steps so that she can practice her yodeling from the top of the staircase. In other words, it is hard to find a situation that Emmy can't somehow manipulate into a fun time. We are thinking of trying a "naughty, empty play pen" in a secluded area (AKA, baby jail).
I am kind of wondering if this sudden aggression is due to her day care attendance (she has only been attending day care for about a month and a half now), or a cry for more of my attention (though frankly, in order to give her any more attention than I already do, I will have to cut back on some essential functions such as eating, peeing, and/or taking a shower)? I wish I could ask her to explain why she is mad, or sad, so that we could get to the crux of the issue, but if I ask her that question, she will likely answer "beggelserbiggebillmumm" (an approximation of her 15 month old lingo).
I am totally open to suggestions on discipline, except for suggestions that include hitting, spanking, biting, or pinching my girl. I'm a lover, not a fighter, and will not change the core of who I am, even if it means I will need to develop a lot more patience as a mommy.


  1. I think all kids go through some phase of this, I recall my brother, sister and several cousins doing it. There's no easy answer, but I recall with my sister holding her hands firmly together and giving an authoritative "no" seemed to help at least against me.

    Perhaps the empty play pen or step with a baby-gate at the first landing would be helpful? With the baby-gate she can't go to the top to practice her yodeling, but it would still be a place she would have to go.

    Another thing I recall from way back at the babysitters with the naughty chair was that the first few times someone went there, the sitter (or a big kid) would have to sit there with them, basically ignoring the play aspect until they got the idea that they were to just sit there.

    I've seen some good replies to such questions on sites like and pose it to the masses...filtering out the crappy, clearly they didn't really read the question assvice of course. (And no, assvice isn't a typo.)

  2. I believe this is her reaction to day care. She is afraid that Mama will leave her forever - even if you do come back. Her anger is fear. Instead of punishment - a short time out and soon after reassurance that Mama loves her.
    This is a great blog. It lets me keep in touch.
    Ella screams when she doesn't get her way. When I baby sat, I told her that when she stopped screaming I'd come in and read her a story. She went on screaming until she suddenly stopped, and I went in to read a story, and tuck her into bed. She was all smiles.