Watching your child become physically aggressive with another child (hitting, shoving, hair pulling, biting, etc) is so stressful.
You feel embarrassed, bad for the other child, and might even question your own parenting skills - "What did I do wrong?", "Why is my child is so mean??"
Before you spiral too far, just note that behaviour like this is completely normal in young children.
It's usually happening for one of three reasons:
1. Inability To Communicate
Physically aggressive acts (biting, pinching, hitting, and shoving) are often simply because a child is trying to communicate something and they are unable to do it verbally.
They often occur in the early days of language development, when children want to speak more than they're capable of.
This doesn’t necessarily mean these behaviours only occur during this time.
Even young children who can speak in full sentences, will still have difficulty articulating how they feel or what they need sometimes.
They could be trying to tell you that they’re tired, hungry, over-stimulated, too hot/cold, etc.
2. Your Little Scientist
Hitting and other physical acts might also happen because your child is experimenting with cause and effect.
Montessori recognizes that children are little scientists exploring the world. How others react to their actions and behaviour is something your child may experiment with.
Children on the receiving end of a hit or pinch will often give a BIG reaction and the physical child may simply be trying to test that reaction. You or the parent of the other child may also have a notable reaction so there's lots of information to gather and process.
It doesn’t mean the child is bad or mean, they just don’t fully understand that the big reaction means they hurt someone.
3. Lack Of Impulse Control
Young children are naturally impulsive.
They want what they want, when they want it. They have little patience for anything that gets in the way of that.
Your child may react physically when you (or someone else) has prevented them from getting what they want - taken a toy away, denied a request, or ended a fun activity.