Dealing with aggressive toddlers

November 26, 2012 

Q: My 3-year-old has asked to learn piano, and we are wary of her beginning too young and/or being pushed or getting burned out. Can you advise?

Learning a musical instrument is like learning a new language, and preschool children are able to learn a second language much more easily than older children. I believe every child should learn to play a musical instrument. An instrument can be a great source of personal satisfaction as well as one of the best possible outlets for creative expression. I don’t, however, believe in pushing by either parent or teacher. If your daughter feels pressure from you to practice, for example, she may lose interest altogether. Let her natural inclination to learn new things rule.


Q: My 3-year-old is being bullied by a girl in her preschool. Today, this girl pushed her to the floor and snatched a toy away from her. The teacher is trying to handle it, but in the meantime can you recommend any books that would help her learn how to deal with it?

To qualify as bullying, aggression must be premeditated and inflicted with deliberate intent to humiliate. Having had lots of experience consulting with preschool programs, I am reasonably certain your daughter isn’t being bullied. The perpetrator in this case is simply an aggressive child. The aggression is impulsive and happens when the other child wants something your daughter is playing with. What you’re describing is the sort of thing that is likely to happen in groups of toddlers. Some studies have found that toddlers in preschool groups are more aggressive, on average, than toddlers who stay at home.

I know of no books that would help a child this age put another child’s aggression into perspective. The best solution is to arrange with the teacher to keep the girls separated. If that’s not possible, the only solution might be to find another preschool. Or, if you can, keep her at home another year.

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