When you put a group of toddlers together, things won't always go smoothly. Responding to violent behaviors well and teaching alternative solutions is the key to helping young children gain the social skills needed to thrive in a preschool setting. Here are some things you can do as a parent to help your child redirect poor behavior that is harmful to peers in preschool.
Violent behaviors are common in very young toddlers. For example, they bite to explore the world and to learn cause and effect: what will happen if I bite? Later on, however, biting or hitting can a way to express anger or frustration, and it is unsanitary and harmful to other kids. If your child is a reflexive biter (or hitter) during stressful situations, you can help them by responding properly to the situation in the following ways:
- firmly responding to biting incidents by restating the rule, "Biting is not allowed." Try to teach empathy and show consequence by letting your child see the hurt child's wound and by encouraging them to give a hug or to say sorry.
- explaining that biting hurts and that hurting other people is wrong.
- enforcing a consequence. Maybe terminate the play for the day, leave preschool early with your child (if they enjoy being there), or sit quietly with your child away from the play area, because when people bite, they are not ready to play.
You can further stop hitting or biting by practicing some preventative measures to help your child better respond to situations that normally trigger a negative response. These include:
Modeling the correct way to act.
Practice stressful scenarios at home so your child can know what to do instead of biting or hitting. For example, if they are frustrated, calling a teacher, biting a teething toy, or going and doing something else away from the person are better responses. Practice these alternatives at home to help them get used to exerting self control.
Establishing a good emotional connection with your child.
Sometimes, children act out with violence when they are not able to deal with negative feelings in a healthy way. Part of emotional health means having a source of empathy and positive energy to fall back on when your child is stressed. Be sure to spend time with your child daily. Talk about their day, read with them, laugh with them, or share an experience together. These help your child to be more stable in outside environments and to have better control over difficult feelings when they come.
Making sure all your child's needs are met.
Biting and hitting can also be caused when your child is over-stressed due to something outside their control. For example, violent responses are more likely when your child is tired, hungry, or feels threatened. Bring your child to daycare well-rested and fed.
Children have individual needs. Be sure that your child has time to themselves or is not placed in a situation that is overwhelming to them. For example, being too crowded too often or having too many loud noises in a small space can be difficult for some children to process. If this is the case, inform the teacher that your child needs some time playing alone each day and ask if there is space where they can do so. Children who are sensitive to sensory stimulation may need additional aid in the classroom to help them function well throughout the day by modeling and shadowing the correct behavior.
If violent behavior persists in the classroom, you might want to consult a child development specialist to help offer further solutions or look for a preschool with a different time of day, learning model or class size.
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