How to deal with aggressive behaviour in children

A person and child in a graduation cap dealing with the aggressive behaviour of the child

In recent years, a lot of parents have complained about their kids being irritable and aggressive. It is important to treat or control this aggressive behaviour as soon as you see the first signs. The first thing to understand is that it is a normal part of your child’s emotional development. Being aggressive or temperamental within boundaries is ok but unchecked aggression can be disruptive and harmful. The easiest way to deal with such a behaviour is to begin by understanding the reason behind the behaviour. This will help them in employing positive parenting strategies tailored to your child’s age group, you can help them manage their emotions and develop healthier ways to express themselves.

Find the root cause of your child’s aggression:

Before blindly diving into discipline strategies, you must intricately explore the child development aspect of these strategies. Aggressive behaviour can stem from various factors. Some of those have been listed below.

  • Frustration: Young children are often seen to struggle to communicate their needs. This gives rise to a sense of frustration leading to tantrums and aggression.
  • Emotional dysregulation: There can be difficulty in processing emotions for some children. This difficulty in managing emotions can lead to emotional outbursts, lack of sensitivity and impulsivity.
  • Social cues: Children learn social norms and regulations gradually through observation and experience. A lack of such understanding can often result in aggressive behaviour.
  • Underlying issues: In some cases, the children might be facing some mental health issues. This can lead to high aggression levels. These mental health conditions might include issues such as symptoms of anxiety, ADHD, or other conditions.

Ways to deal with aggressive children:

  • Effective communication can prove helpful when your child is super temperamental and aggressive. Talking to your child calmly and openly, building trust by actively listening and validating their feelings can make them feel easier if they wish to open up to you about their issues. Remember, they are not deliberately giving you a hard time, instead, they are having a hard time dealing with their emotions.
  • Identifying triggers becomes a crucial point while dealing with aggressive children. Notice patterns and situations that ignite or trigger their aggression. By anticipating these triggers, you can establish the habit of setting boundaries and offer alternative coping mechanisms. This can help them in avoiding such situations which might end up inducing aggression in them.
  • Emotional regulation skills are something that you should focus on while dealing with aggressive children. Teach your child simple deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness techniques. One thing that also helps in such situations is simply taking time out to calm down before reacting.
  • Positive reinforcement in the case of aggressive kids goes a long way. Praising and rewarding appropriate behaviour to encourage them on their journey of being patient and avoiding impulsive reactions can help out a lot. Remember, anger management takes time and practice, irrespective of the age of a person and even more when it comes to kids.
  • Discipline strategies which you choose to adopt should be age-appropriate and consistent. Time-outs can be effective in the case of older children. If you are dealing with kids between ages 2 to 10, redirection works better. Remember, the goal is to teach them to control their aggression, not punish them.
  • Seeking professional help is often seen by people as a sign of weakness. You need to understand that seeking professional help will speed up the process of understanding Therapists and counsellors can provide valuable and much-needed guidance and tools for you and your child.

Age-specific methods to deal with aggressive children:

Apart from adopting the above-mentioned methods while dealing with aggressive kids, it is important to tailor your methods depending on the age of your child. We have mentioned some tips you can follow depending on the age of your kid. 

Toddlers (2-4 years old):

  • Focus on redirection of your child’s aggression: When you see an aggressive behaviour occur, calmly try to distract your child with a new activity or toy. This will help in diverting their mind from anything that was triggering their anger. 
  • Emphasise the importance of empathy: Make use of simple phrases like “I see you are feeling frustrated” as and when needed. This will make them feel understood and guide them to express their feelings verbally.
  • Set clear boundaries: Use “no” firmly but calmly if your kid is acting up. This negation is followed by a positive alternative. Being mad at them or shouting at them will not prove helpful in such a case. They might even end up becoming stubborn.
  • Model calmness: Stay composed and avoid yelling or reacting aggressively. Children practice what they see. If they see you reacting aggressively to even minor inconveniences, they will imbibe the same habits.

Preschoolers (4-6 years old):

  • Introduce simple time-outs: Choose a quiet space for a short time-out (one minute per year of age) to help them calm down. This will inculcate the habit of ‘think before you react’. This can be a huge step in transforming their aggressive behaviours. 
  • Role-play social skills: You must acquaint your kids with social skills in the space of your home. Practice habits like taking turns, sharing, and expressing emotions appropriately. This will largely help them in real-life settings.
  • Read books and watch documentaries about emotions: This simple step will help them identify and understand different emotions. This will also help them feel understood through relatable stories and enable them to learn the right code of conduct.
  • Offer choices: When tensions rise, provide two acceptable options to them. Choosing how they can act will give them a sense of control. It will help them to know the kind of choices they can make when in such situations. 

School-aged children (6-12 years old):

  • Discuss triggers and consequences of their actions: Talk openly about situations that trigger aggression in them. You should calmly sit down with them and the impact their actions have on others.
  • Teach relaxation techniques: When a person is angry or impulsive, they often experience increased heartbeat, heavy breathing etc. Introduce deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualisation techniques to your child. Learning these techniques will help them act with sanity even under triggering circumstances.
  • Encourage problem-solving: A lot of times even kids know about their lack of impulse control. They can’t help themselves because they are unaware of the methods. Help them brainstorm solutions to conflicts instead of resorting to aggression.

Teenagers (13-18 years old):

  • Open communication is key: A lot of kids in their teens face anger issues. This is because they don’t feel seen or understood. Create a safe space for open and honest conversations. Ensure that they are not afraid to talk about their frustrations and struggles.
  • Encourage healthy expression: Anger is often an outlet for unchecked emotions or feelings. To make them regulate their emotions, offer outlets like journaling, exercise, or creative activities to express their emotions.
  • Problem-solving together: They might find it exhausting and overwhelming to process their emotions. Work collaboratively to find solutions to social conflicts and navigate peer pressure.
  • Promote empathy and perspective: Encourage your child to consider the feelings and viewpoints of others in conflict situations. This will give them a wider perspective of other people’s feelings.

As a parent, it can seem difficult and gut-wrenching to see your kid take on aggressive behavioural patterns. Every child develops at their own pace, and challenges are an inevitable part of growing up. At DPS Warangal, we believe patience and understanding will help you gain a better understanding of your child’s behaviour. Stay calm, be consistent, and celebrate even small victories. By addressing aggressive behaviour with empathy and effective strategies, you are not just dealing with their behaviour now, you are also equipping your child with ways to navigate life’s challenges with grace and self-control.