We have a 2.5 year-old toddler. He is normally an active and energetic kid. He made friends with neighborhood kids. When ever he sees the other toddlers he gets fully excited and charged-up and he will do the below things:

  1. Run fast to the kids and tries to hug them. Some times it hurts other kids and scares them.
  2. Sometimes he will play the games that hurts others. Run and collide into them with his head. Jumping, jump and sit with out awareness of where they are.
  3. Normally he used to listen to us and comply our instructions. But when he gets excited he will not listen to us and will continue to do these things.

It is very difficult and impossible for us to calm him down and bring normal status and normal behavior.

What are different approaches that I can take to calm him down?

  • This might not be quite as innocent as you think. At 2.5 a child is fully capable of deliberately hurting other children. You need to be quite clear that he must play nicely, or he cannot play with the other children. You cannot allow your child to continue to play rough and hurt others. Oct 11, 2016 at 13:07

3 Answers 3


I would start with understanding that a 2.5 year old has no impulse control nor cognitive reasoning. It doesn't exist. It's not there. Sometimes it seems like it is, those are what I call "lucky occasions", but really it's not. I have a 2.5 year old boy as well, and a background in lifespan development/child psychology, so I am highly familiar with the type. :)

So, a couple of things. First, make sure he actually gets plenty of time to be excited and be a "crazy" kid throughout the day in a somewhat controlled environment - i.e., not in the scenarios you're describing where he is hurting other kids.

Second, spend a lot of time focusing on positive attention ... that age, they are almost like teenagers for a blip in their toddlerhood - they have hit an age where they can do a lot of new things, and they've discovered so much they didn't know before, and they want to try it all out - but mostly, they are wanting to connect in new and different ways.

The infant / young tod who didn't know how to say no, or push limits, or test boundaries has grown up and figured out that he can try to get what he wants. EVERY SINGLE TODDLER DOES THIS! This is actually a milestone and a healthy part of development! They are learning autonomy. They are learning preferences. They are becoming individuals. They YEARN for the freedom to say 'no', or to not have to do something just because someone told them to. They thrive on being able to make decisions for themselves. Embrace this time, and pat yourself on the back, you have a motivated toddler instead of one who has been broken down into compliance.

One of my most invaluable tools is to form questions in the form of two options, which forces them into a choice (note: you must be in agreement to either choice he makes), but makes them feel like they have control over their "destiny". An example: toddler won't eat dinner, but also won't get down from the table to get ready for bed. Me: "You can either finish eating dinner, or you can come with me and get ready for bed. You choose, which do you want to do?" There are times when he refuses to answer either way, and if I've asked him a second time and he ignores me, then I will say "Great, then I get to choose! Time for bed." And then I stick to my guns and actually take him to bed, regardless of whether a tantrum ensued. I'm not mean about it, or harsh about it, I explain to him very evenly and logically that "I gave you a choice to make when I needed you to make a decision. You could have chosen dinner, or you could have chosen bed. Since you weren't eating, and you didn't answer me, I chose bedtime for you." Believe me, they understand what you're saying - even a completely nonverbal toddler understands. I can't even begin to tell you how glad I am someone taught me this "trick" - I use it for most things now to diffuse situations or give him independence and control over his choices, without having to sacrifice anything or browbeat him into doing what I want him to do.

Another example, if he has something in his hand that I don't want him to have (like he found a pen and is about to write all over the walls), I will say "We can't play with the pen right now. You can put it back where it belongs, or you can give it to me and I can put it back where it belongs for you. Choice is yours, what's it going to be? You put it back, or I put it back, but we can't play with the pen right now." I can usually see the wheels turning in his head as he thinks about it, but the great thing is - either way, it ends with the pen being put away and (usually) no fight or tantrum or meltdown! He made the choice, out of choices he was given, and I don't have ink all over my walls. Win win!

  • Children at that age should still be able to control themselves to some degree. It's not acceptable to simply allow a child to hurt others and justify it by his age. At 2.5 a child can understand when they're being corrected, and if instructed properly, will know when behavior is unacceptable. Oct 11, 2016 at 13:11
  • 1
    How many 2.5 year olds do you have? How many have you raised? Yes, they can understand being corrected at that moment. No, they cannot extrapolate and use the cognitive reasoning skills they don't yet have to keep themselves from behaving the same way in a slightly different scenario. Telling them they can't stand on the stool in no way correlates to them understanding they can't stand on the chair or table either.
    – user24720
    Oct 12, 2016 at 2:32
  • I have 2 children. I do understand that children that young to some degree lack restraint, but to say they have no impulse control, and no cognitive reasoning is a stretch. Most children that age can understand that it's wrong to hurt others, and can be taught what is acceptable and what is not. Oct 13, 2016 at 13:01
  • 1
    They don't though. They actually don't. Not cognitively anyway. Most experts agree that right around age 3, they begin acting purposefully with regard to what they have been taught. Prior to that it's mostly conditioning, not cognitive. You can keep disagreeing but the research supports what I'm saying.
    – user24720
    Oct 21, 2016 at 17:37

As a mum of a nearly 3 year old highly independent, motivated, energetic girl, the 2 main tools we've found useful are as much outdoor physical activity as possible in every day and choice. Very much in agreement with user24720.

At this age the more gross motor activities - climbing, running, jumping - we can get her doing in the day the calmer she is in-between times, this allows us to encourage her to do quiet, concentrating activities like puzzles when we need her to. It has also helped with how she responds to highly stimulating situations like meeting friends, new people, new places and how attentive to us she is when we give instructions. For us I've found the more we can load these activities into the beginning of the day the better. Even better are activities where we're joining in with her - ball games are good, skipping rope, anything that requires 2 people or more or taking turns - that's helped her to learn how to interact with others too - she can see by example. If she accidentally hurts me or is too rough when we're playing then I make sure I act it up a teeny bit so shes really clear that it hurt and I say something like 'I'm having fun but be gentle, that hurt' and then we carry on playing - gradually she's learning where the limits are but at nearly 3 she's still very young to be learning the finer control of her limbs!

Giving her specific, defined choices has worked a dream for us in one-on-one behaviour - Do you want to turn the tv off or shall I? Would you like weetabix or rice crispies for breakfast? We thought we were giving her choice before but in fact 'What would you like for breakfast?' was too much for her to process - she had to come up with the options AND then the choice, which just left her frustrated so she expressed her frustration though 'naughty' behaviour.

Despite its awful title I've found a book by Margot Sutherland 'What Every Parent Needs to Know: The incredible effects of love, nurture and play on your childs development' - has given me a good basis to start from with helping my lo navigate her emotions/behaviour.


Runs fast to the kids and tries to hug them. Some times it hurts other kids and scares them.

Anticipate this. Hold his hand firmly (with your other hand firmly gripping his forearm if necessary) and approach the other child at a civilized but enthusiastic pace. Model the desired behavior, for example, "Do you want a hug?"

Practice ahead of time with stuffed animals and family members. Do simple skits involving "Hi, do you want a hug?" "Yes, please!" or "No, thank you." When the answer is no, model hugging yourself instead. Or take along a stuffed animal to give a hug to instead.

Sometimes he will play the games that hurt others. Run and collide into them with his head. Jumping, jump and sit without awareness of where they are.

To develop the awareness of where the other child is, state, "the little boy is there. Let's be careful! Model being careful, do a skit with a stuffed animal hurting another stuffed animal by accident, and then being sorry. Try to help him develop empathy for the animal that got hurt. But watch out, don't let these skits get truly violent.

Join a weekly play group, so your little one can interact with the same children on a regular basis.

Normally he used to listen to us and comply with our instructions. But when he gets excited he will not listen to us and will continue to do these things.

You may need to take some non-punitive time-outs from time to time. Also, you may need to keep the doses of excitement rather short for now.

It will be intense and tiring for you. Plan accordingly.

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