Development leaps are fun. And by ‘fun’, I mean ‘ torture‘. And by ‘torture’, I mean ‘painful‘. Well, at least they are right now with Martha. She’s nearly 21 months old and has become something of the demon of late…

A demon with cute dimples that are working wonders in getting her out of trouble…

An easy start

Martha was the dreamiest of newborns – born after a tough pregnancy and at times quite awful labour, but the birth was amazing and she was the most contented miniature human possible. Breastfeeding was fine after a few minor hiccups, she could projectile vomit like a pro but almost always with a smile, she slept through pretty much from day one. She made those early days easy!

At 4 months a good ol’ sleep regression hit and from then until her first birthday I could be up every 30-60 minutes a night. It was horrendous, but she was still a super happy child so we coped.

stopped breastfeeding her at 17 months, a combination of me being ready (I’d been ready for months!) and her self-weaning to a large extent. A stroppy nature was starting to show by that point, but she had her big brother to contend with, and he could do tantrums to the highest level!

Now? Well, we’re feeling the full force of Martha’s stroppiness!

She’s still utterly beautiful, super cheeky, full of smiles, gives the best cuddles, and can melt the hearts of anyone she comes into contact with. Oh, but the temper! That’s something else altogether!

When your happy baby turns into a little sh....

Let’s take Saturday as an example: We were in Nottingham to have lunch with some (childless) friends. We paid up and got ready to go out into the cold and wet and head back to our car. I held Martha’s coat up to put on her.

She scratched my face, slapped me, then tried to bite my hand as I gently held her arms down to save my face from permanent scarring.

Nice, right? It got better – when I said “No” to her firmly, she laughed like a freaking hyena. Ladies and gents, this child ENJOYS committing these heinous acts of aggression!

The big brother

Toby and I get the brunt of this behaviour – Martha will calmly waltz over to her unsuspecting brother and raise her hand to hit him. She’ll look around first to see if I’m watching and if I am, when I give her ‘the look’, she’ll giggle and lower her hand. If I’m not looking, Toby will receive a swift slap around the chops, or a shove from behind if he’s standing in the exact spot Martha desires to be.

She’ll pinch him, whack him with toys around the head; poor Tobes is her personal punch bag and she flipping LOVES it!

(Although the rest of the time they’re utterly delightful together and make my heart dance)

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What do to with an aggressive toddler

The thing is, Martha’s behaviour is rarely an act of anger. She will lash out if she’s not happy about something, but often it’s done in a really calm manner and she seems to genuinely enjoy it.

I’ve asked other parents for their top tips, and there’s so many different ways that us mums and dads deal with this stuff. I’m a firm believer in everyone having the right to raise their children as they see fit (within the realms of reasonable behaviour!) so I find it so interesting to see how others cope.

  • Kate and Lucy both recommend a consistent approach with whichever method of discipline/reaction you choose
  • KatyNicolaJaymee and Leslie all use a similar technique of explaining why the behaviour isn’t nice/that they have hurt someone, and then encouraging a hug and saying sorry
  • Hayley finds a time out works well with her boys.
  • Kirsty tries not to react to any scratching and bitting by her 16 month old son.
  • Lucy finds that the ‘gentle hands’ approach works well – firmly saying “No” and stroking their arm to show what being gentle means.

Toby has never been physically aggressive to others – he’s the child who will bang his own head on the floor, or hit himself when he’s upset – so this is all new to us!

I think my plan of action is to say a firm “no”, and stay as calm as possible, giving as little attention to the behaviour as possible. I’ve thought it’s a good idea to reinforce positive behaviour, so I will continue to praise the amazing things that Martha does, and try not to give her the attention she seems to want when she’s being a horror. Sorry, I mean when she’s displaying these undesirable behaviours.

(Being a horror)

What are your top tips for managing these sorts of delightful things? Let me know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.