Aggressive behavior is sometimes a normal part of child development. Young children are still learning new skills, including emotional regulation and expression. If they get frustrated or defiant, they may lash out at others.
Common reasons why children may display aggressive or violent behavior include:
- Hunger, lack of sleep, or physical discomfort
- Anxiety of adjusting to daycare or preschool
- Dealing with parental divorce
As your child learns verbal skills to communicate their feelings and understands how to control their temper, tantrums and meltdowns should subside. If your child’s behavior persists, however, it may be a sign that something is wrong. Talk to your pediatrician, who may be able to refer you to a mental health professional who can help.
7 ways to deal with your child’s aggressive and violent behavior
- Stay calm. Freaking out will only make your child’s aggression worse. Take deep breaths and count to 10 to avoid meeting anger with anger.
- Don’t give in to tantrums. As tempting as it may be to cave in to your child’s demands just to avoid a public scene, don’t do it. Giving in only reinforces the bad behavior.
- Identify triggers. Pay attention to patterns in your child’s behavior. For example, if you notice that your child tends to lash out when they are tired, hungry, or stressed, you can anticipate meltdowns and prepare for a strategy in advance.
- Reward good behavior. If your child is behaving well, praise them and recognize their good behavior. You don’t necessarily need to give them a prize or treat.
- Watch for aggressive play. If you notice your child hitting or playing aggressively, intervene immediately and remind them that their behavior is inappropriate. This can help them avoid developing aggressive habits.
- Model good behavior. If you display aggressive behavior when things do not go your way, your child will model your behavior. They will get the message that it is OK to overreact when they are upset.
- Limit exposure to violence. Do not allow them to watch violent TV shows or play with toy weapons.
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American Academy of Pediatrics. 10 Tips to Prevent Aggressive Toddler Behavior. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Aggressive-Behavior.aspx
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