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Preventing or Reducing a Child's Aggressive Behavior

A child who often hits, slaps, and bites other children or destroys toys is not going through a stage. He is behaving in an aggressive way that is upsetting to parents and other children. Aggressive behavior includes:

  • breaking things on purpose
  • pushing, kicking, biting, or hitting other children
  • name calling, swearing, or threatening playmates.

The following suggestions will help you to help your child.

  • Set firm limits. Make it clear to a child that being mean is not ok. Give clear messages such as "we don't hit people." Always supervise aggressive children when they are playing with other children so that you can quickly step in if needed. Never allow aggressive behavior, even in play. Do not roughhouse with an aggressive child. To do so will encourage aggressive behavior.
  • Be a good role model. Always show self control. You can't teach a child self-control when they see you lose your temper. "Do as I say, not as I do" is a set up for failure.
  • Find children an outlet. Children have a lot of physical energy and need healthy ways to let it out. Provide children with daily physical activities such as sports, martial arts, or dance. This gives them positive ways to release their energy. It also can help them feel good about themselves, which can reduce angry behaviors. Teach children to talk about their emotions. Help children express themselves in healthy, non-hostile ways.
  • Give consequences. Immediately remove a child from the situation when he starts to act up. Use time out. Do not spank, hit, or verbally abuse your child. These kinds of punishment can teach a child to spank, hit, or verbally abuse others.
  • Reward positive behavior. The best way to reward a child is by giving them positive attention. Make sure that each day you give your child at least 30 minutes of positive attention.

A child's aggressive behavior is much easier to prevent than it is to eliminate. Keep your child away from people who act aggressive. Make sure there is no violence in the home and that your child is not a victim of abuse. Teach children to avoid drugs or alcohol. Do not let your child watch violent TV shows or movies. The less violence your child sees, the less likely he is to be aggressive with others.

If your child has seriously hurt another child, or continues to be aggressive after you try these suggestions, see your healthcare provider or a mental health professional. Aggressive behaviors may be a sign of serious emotional or behavioral problems.

Written by E. Christophersen, PhD, author of "Little People: Guidelines for Commonsense Child Rearing.".
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-02-12
Last reviewed: 2009-09-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
2010 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
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