As parents, few situations are more difficult to deal with than having a child who is aggressive toward other children. It’s not uncommon for younger children to engage in this type of behavior at various points in their development and in a variety of settings. However, when it becomes very frequent or seems to be their consistent way of reacting to something they don’t like, you have to step in and help them change their behavior.
Nine following tips can help to stop aggressive in young children.
1. Understand the underlying reasons leading to your child’s behavior
The first step is understanding the underlying reasons why your child is choosing to act out this way.
The cause of aggressive behaviors may be due to any or all of the following:
- Being placed in a stressful situation
- Lack of routine
- Extreme frustration or anger
- Inadequate speech development
- Lack of adult supervision
- Mirroring the aggressive behaviors of other children around them
2. Step in and Stop it Immediately
Immediately step in and remove him from the situation. Be careful not to give too much attention to your child so that you do not give any negative reinforcement for the bad behavior. A simple yet firm statement such as, “We don’t bite” should suffice while you turn your attention to the victim.
If your child cannot calm down, remove him or her from the situation without getting angry yourself. When they are calm and ready to talk, you can discuss what happened.
By walking an age-appropriate distance away from your child after he has acted out, you are sending the message that you will attend to him when he can calm down.
- Immediately step in and remove him from the situation.
- Not to give too much attention to your child so that you do not give any negative reinforcement for the bad behavior.
- Remove your child from the situation without getting angry yourself if he/she cannot calm down.
- Discuss what happened when your child is calm and ready to talk
3. Lower Your Voice—Don’t Raise It
- Show self-control and use gentle words if we want our kids to do the same.
- Change the tone and volume of your voice.
- Repeat the phrase “We don’t bite” and inform your child that if it happens again, the consequence is that you will leave. If this does not work for your child and he simply cannot calm down, leave him where he is (again, at an age-appropriate distance) and ignore the tantrum.
4. Practice Ways to De-fuse your Child’s Anger
- For younger kids, help them recognize their anger by stating, “I know you’re mad, but we don’t hit. No hitting!”. For children aged 3-7, talk about anger as an important feeling.
- Teach your child how to count to ten until he is less angry, how to do deep breathing in order to calm down, or how to use his words by making statements such as “I am really, really angry right now!”
5. Teach Kids that Aggression is Wrong
- In a steady voice, explain to your child that hitting, biting, kicking, and other aggressive behaviors are wrong. For younger children, those between 18 months and 2 years, keep it simple. Hold them and explain, “No hitting. It is wrong.
- Repeat this rule numerous times, using the same words, until your child gets it.
- For older children, those between 3 and 7, can use a variety of phrases when they misbehave.
6. Tell Your Child to “Use Your Words”
- Teach your child to say “No!” to their peers instead of acting aggressively.
- Give your child a series of phrases to use with their friends when they are feeling angry or frustrated. Some examples are, “No, that’s mine,” “I don’t like that!” or “Stop! That hurts.”
7. Recognize Your Child’s Limitations
You should know when leaving a potentially volatile situation or choosing to engage your child in a different activity to avoid aggressive confrontations.
If your child targets a particular child at play group, hold him off going to play group for a few weeks until he learns to control himself.
If your child is exhausted, hungry, or over-stimulated, respect that and engage in low-key, slow-paced activities that will make aggression less likely.
With your older, more verbal child, talk openly about situations that make him angry and work together to come up with solutions to help him through the problem next time.
8. Be Appreciative of their Efforts
- Praise their hard work and efforts. Look for and continue to praise good behavior as a way to motivate your children to do better next time
- Teach your child “What Not to Do: Never bite or hit back.”
- Do not expose your child to violent television or video games.
- Do not personalize your child’s bad behavior.
9. When Aggression is Extreme
As for many children, aggression can be normal but it does not mean you can ignore it if your child’s behavior has gone beyond the scope of what is considered within the normal boundaries for their developmental level.
Look for the following signs in your child:
- A pattern of defiant, disobedient, or hostile behavior towards you or other authority figures such as teachers or day care providers. A pattern means behavior that is not fleeting, but is chronic and does not respond to the above interventions.
- Loses their temper easily
- Constantly argues with adults
- Deliberately engages in activities that knowingly annoy others
- Blames others
- Acts annoyed or is chronically touchy
- Exhibits ongoing anger
- Acts spiteful or vindictive
In this case, your child need being evaluated by a mental health professional.
Parenting an aggressive child is a hard work as you weave your way through the maze of his or her development. However, remember: the best example of appropriate behavior is you, and your young child is watching.