Aggressive children: why and what to do

Certain children’s behaviors such as scratching, biting or pushing other children around may seem very aggressive from a parent’s perspective. But how many times have you really asked yourself why children act so aggressively?

The reasons vary. Behind this type of action there is always a hidden desire to receive attention and be listened to; you have no idea (since you’re worrying about their behavior), but they are actually just trying to communicate with you.

So, moms, do not panic if your 9 months old boy tries to rip off your nose or starts hitting every child he meets, (I know what you’re thinking “see, it’s all their grandparents fault, they give him to much freedom, now he’ll grow up to become a bully”), he’s actually just looking for a way to make contact with you, which is why we must judge aggressiveness in relation to age.

Why children act so aggressively?

In their first year, children use aggression as a specific way of reacting to frustrations (for example: hitting an object that bothers them) and as a way of exploring space (for example: harshly moving and throwing toys around). Nonetheless typical actions in this age. While around two-three years old, with the introduction of the word “NO” in their vocabulary, they discover a new way of growing which allows them to distinguish themselves from the rest and assert their will.

What is the genesis of aggressive behavior?

Aggressive behavior (verbal or physical chronic violence) is always linked to a specific context and starts manifesting itself in early childhood all the way to adulthood. 

Many are the variables that come into play, socio-economical, psychological, biological or those related to risk factors throughout a child’s development.

However, there are two major influential elements that drive a child’s attitude into a violent behavior and these are:

  • A child’s learning history (everything acknowledged in the past, and I mean everything, even things you haven’t taught them).
  • Personal characteristics in a child (physical characteristics, the ability to respond to certain stimuli, feelings, etc.).

Here are some suggestions for dealing with aggressive children:

  1. One good suggestion is to use parenting behaviors to change a child’s behavior. Be a good example to your children, show them how you resolve issues and critical moments without using aggression; children are like sponges and definitely will treasure your behavior.
  2. Discover where these aggressive behaviors occur: this way you will know what are the events and contexts that trigger an aggression in your children so you can focus on intervening.
  3. Listen to your children: they will show you where the problem is. And though they may not tell you directly, you’ll know them better than anyone else and will have no problem understanding what’s wrong by observing their little gestures, looks and hints.
  4. Be careful of mass media: TV is not made equally for everyone, make sure your children (especially in their early age) do not watch unsuitable programs with too much violence, children progress by imitation and tend to repeat aggressive behaviors thinking it’s the right way to approach people.
  5. Suggest children what to do instead of what not to do. Don’t constantly yell at your child but rather explain to them what to do to behave correctly. Children will experience a “no” as an aggression and tend to behave aggressively as well, creating a vicious circle that will be difficult to exit.
  6. Praise them when they don’t use violence: children will feel strengthened and will understand that it’s the right behavior to use.
  7. Sports: especially for older kids, it helps release their conducted aggression, also since they are physically tired there will be less energy in order to express a dysfunctional behavior.

I hope these quick tips will be somehow useful to you. One thing I can tell you as a mom and a psychologist and that’s to have a lot of patience with your kids; and if these behaviors persist over time please visit a specialist, especially if they recur in various contexts simultaneously. 

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