Dealing with aggressive behaviour

There may seem to be no clear reason as to why children become aggressive, but often it is caused when they are finding it difficult to express their feelings through words. We look at the three main causes of aggression and share some ideas to help overcome and reduce aggressive behaviour and bring it under control.
In this article learn more about dealing with aggressive behaviour in toddlers and pre-school kids and what you can do to help your little one.

There may seem to be no clear reason as to why a child becomes aggressive, but often it is caused when they are finding it difficult to express their feelings through words.

Frustration builds, sometimes very quickly, and the frustration is let out in the form of aggression.

Aggressive behaviour at an early age can lead to problems later on. Anger and aggression also start to become an issue when a child attacks another child or adult. This is likely to be shown by biting and hitting.

Causes of aggression

There are 3 main causes of aggression in children shown through:

  1. Frustration
  2. Attention seeking
  3. Being territorial.
These aggressive behaviours are most likely to be found in younger children, but as their vocabulary grows they are more able to demonstrate their dissatisfaction through words.
  • Frustration can have a number of triggers. For example it can be caused when a child has been told it is time to stop playing, asked to carry out an activity they do not wish to do or when they cannot have something they want.
  • Likewise there can be different triggers for attention seeking. An example of this is if there is a younger sibling and the older child perceives the younger one is getting more attention than they are.
  • Being territorial can occur if a child is playing happily by themselves. Another child may appear and wish to join in. If the first child does not want the second child to play as well he or she may show aggression towards the other child to try and drive them away.
Check out these ideas to help overcome and reduce aggressive behaviour and bring it under control.

9 Ways to deal with aggressive behaviour


1. Triggers


Try and work out if there are triggers that regularly cause aggressive behaviour.

It can be as simple as children regularly arguing and becoming aggressive over what toy they want to play with or TV programme they want to watch.


2. Reaction


If you react to any problems in the home by shouting or hitting out, your children will learn from you that this is acceptable behaviour at stressful times.

Therefore if they are in a situation that they find frustrating they are likely to react in a similar, aggressive manner.

It can help you if you can remain calm as a parent and refrain from raising your own voice and shouting.

3. Behaviour


Discuss appropriate and inappropriate behaviour with your child in a way that they will understand.

Wait until there is some quiet time and discuss your child's actions with them in a calm way. Explain to them the likely results of their actions.

For example explain that when they hit or bite someone it hurts and that other children are unlikely to want to play with them in the future.


4. Attention & affection


All children need to be given attention and shown affection. This is especially true for older children with younger siblings.

A first born child gets used to a certain amount of attention and affection. They can find it very difficult to understand why they have to learn to share the limelight with a younger child.

This can lead to them feeling rejected and isolated. Make time to pay them special attention.


5. Warning time


Most children get frustrated and can show aggression if they are busy playing and you suddenly tell them it is time to go.

Although it is not always possible, try to give them some warning that it is nearly time to stop playing. This gives them the chance to get used to the idea and you are likely to get a more positive response.

Also think about how you would feel if you were asked to stop doing something you love and then leave in a hurry.


6. Distractions


If you sense a child is getting bored or frustrated with what they are doing, be ready to suggest trying something different.

A child who is doing something they find very difficult may run out of patience and lose their temper. Watch out for these signs happening and whenever possible have some diversions ready.

7. Discussion


As your child gets older the easier they will find it to establish their own vocabulary and be able to express their frustrations verbally.

Explain to your child how they can resolve their differences through discussion and negotiation rather than through hitting out.


8. Praise


Try to praise good behaviour. If you have taken your child somewhere and they have behaved well or if they have had a good day at home, then praise them. This will make your child feel good and want to behave in a positive manner more often.
There will be times when no matter what you do your child still shows aggression. If this happens make sure you keep a close eye on them when you think a flashpoint may arise.

Be prepared to step in quickly and guide your child away from the situation as calmly as you can.

9. Extra help


If after trying these tips your child shows no sign of tempering their aggression then it maybe time to seek further help.

Try talking to your GP, community health providers or teachers as a first step.

More Hot Topics for you to enjoy

Image source:

You might also be interested in ...

Early brain development & learning

Early brain development & learning

Early childhood experiences impact and determine how the brain develops. Find out how we can help to stimulate our children’s early brain development and learning, and help them reach their full potential.
Early Language Learning

Early Language Learning

We often have questions about what babies know or understand very early in life. Babies can’t answer these questions using words but they can tell us a lot by what they look at and for how long. By using the habituation technique we are able to find answers to some interesting research questions and add to our understanding of infant cognition.

join us

Join us on social media for all our latest news.
facebook  pinterest

sign up

Sign up and receive our latest newsletters.
First/Last Name*

contact us
advertise with us