Aggressive 1-Year-Old

Question.

My 1-year-old boy is getting very aggressive. He hits, bites, head-butts, throws things and pulls hair. He also throws food to the dog when eating. He yells a lot when he talks. He gets in to everything even after you tell him not to touch something. I try diverting him with a toy, but he’s right back messing with what he shouldn’t be. He also throws himself on the floor when he can’t do what he wants. I’ve tried timeouts, distracting, showing how it should be and ignoring him in certain situations. I really need some advice.

Answer.

Once we learn how to do something, it can be hard to think back to when we didn't know how to do it. When you were a little person, did you instinctively know how to ride a bike or write in cursive? No, we are taught how to do it, and this same principal needs to be in place with your 1-year-old.

Your son is beginning to realize that he is an actual person. His language is developing, and he’s starting to walk which leads to wanting more independence. He’s also entering a phase of exploring the world around him. Your son's behaviors are normal. We might see them as aggressive, but this is part of his development. He may be discovering he can have an impact on things around him. What an amazing revelation! It's all new to him, and the only way he’ll learn if a behavior is good or bad depends on you to constantly remind him.

When it comes to "disciplining" or teaching a one-year-old, it's difficult because they don't understand what you're trying to do.  Timeout is not appropriate for his level of development. Instead, when he hits, take his hand and firmly tell him "no." When he bites, grab the place he bit and tell him "ow, no." Instead of thinking of your response as "distracting" him, try to think of it as redirecting him to a more positive behavior. If he takes a toy and hits someone with it, tell him "no" and show him how to use the toy appropriately. If he repeats this behavior, tell him "no" and try putting the toy in timeout and then let him try again. You may have to repeat this several times.

Continue this so he can start to piece together the sequence of events. Understand that it may take him more than one day to understand that he's not supposed to do this. Stay consistent and only show praise and attention when you want the chances of a behavior to increase.