My 4-year-old daughter does not think twice before hurling a toy or book or anything else within her reach when she is annoyed.
The first incidence was just before her 3rd birthday, and it got me worried. Over a period, her behavior deteriorated. I agonized over it long and hard but had no idea what to do.
I tried fellow moms, my pediatrician, even my own mother. But their replies were almost the same – wait for the problem to resolve with age and keep counseling her till then.
Well, there is a limit to how much you can counsel a kid on the same thing. Finally, I took to the Internet, a boon for all knowledge seekers, and I was relieved to note that I was not alone in this predicament.
I was surprised to find that studies done on second-grade kids suggest that aggressive behavior is not bad always. In fact, up to a certain level, aggressive behavior relates positively to creativity in a child.
Aggression is not a problem in itself. It is a symptom of an underlying problem. The problem may or may not be behavioral.
Your child could be unwell but not able to express it. In a household with many kids, the child might be feeling uncared for, and hence adopted aggressive behavior to attract attention.
Whatever the reason, aggressive behavior is hard to handle and embarrassing at times. Over time, I have developed my own strategy to counter it, and today I am going to share that with you.
“Children close their ears to advice but open their eyes to example.” ~ Anil Sinha
An Overview of Contents
Keep Calm Amidst the Brewing Storm
A child mimics your conduct. Period. You must behave accordingly, at all times.
Be composed during a crisis and show the child how to deal with difficult situations. If you think your child is too small to comprehend your actions, think again.
Next time you are into a serious discussion with someone, just observe discreetly how your child is intent on every syllable you utter, every movement you make.
Children have an uncanny knack of understanding even the undercurrents. So keep calm, especially when the kid is around.
If your child is violent, take deep breaths before you say or do anything. And speak in the most even tone you can manage. If you also get agitated, you will only add fuel to fire.
You should not show either approval or disapproval.
Let the storm pass and then there will be all the time in the world to discuss if what happened was acceptable or not.
“There are only two things a child will share willingly, communicable diseases and his mother’s age.” ~ Benjamin Spock
Keep the Kid Busy at All Times
My mother says kids are like ghosts – if you don’t keep them busy, they will cling to you and suffocate.
Ten years and two kids later, I agree with her.
Aggressive behavior is a warning sign that your kid has some unresolved issue. And most of the time it is due to lack of occupation. Keep the child busy and you will not have to spend countless hours in conflict and behavior management.
Related read: 65 Age Appropriate Chores For Kids
Create a Daily Routine
Start with chalking out a daily routine for your child and stick to it.
Add meal times, bed times, story times, indoor play times, outdoor activity times, creativity times, lazing around times and even free times. Your child, and more importantly you, should know what your child is supposed to be doing at all times.
The emphasis here is on the word “doing” because whatever a child’s age, he or she believes in active exploration of its surroundings.
Till five years of age, they explore everything and anything with equal curiosity. As the child starts going to school, her or his specific interests develop and then explorations are confined to that.
Develop a Creative Interest
Creativity enhances critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and imagination in a child. On the day-to-day front, it keeps boredom and feelings associated with lack of occupation in abeyance.
If your child shows creative interests like drawing, coloring, music, craft, origami, or something else, you are salvaged. You can easily keep your child occupied in the activity of her choice.
Of course, you might have to get actively involved too, and as a reward you will bond greatly with your child during those shared times.
“Childhood aggression is one of the best-known social predictors of future maladjustment.” ~ Dorothy Lynn Espelage & Susan M. Swearer
Know Triggers of Aggressive Behavior
A child’s normal disposition is happy-go-lucky. Children are also curious, innovative, and playful, but innately sensitive too. If they sense an undesirable activity in their surroundings, their first reaction is to be aggressive. They try to counter the unknown and unwanted with belligerence.
Identify the Triggers
As a parent, you need to ascertain the changes to the playful environment that induce aggressive behavior.
Observe your child closely for a week. 24X7.
Identify what sets off aggression in the child. Is it a specific time of the day, a particular game or toy, a particular situation, friend or sibling, even a food item?
Try to Eliminate the Triggers
Once you know the triggers, try to eliminate what you can. Okay, at least minimize them.
And it is easier than it sounds, I assure you. For example, my daughter is most irritable when she is hungry. So I have created detailed meal times in her routine, including snack times to ensure she doesn’t go without food for more than 2 hours.
You can find your own triggers and work on the daily routine to cut them down.
Study Your Child’s Mood to Predict Onset of Aggressive Behavior
You must always be aware of what your child is busy at.
If she is reading a book, then which book.
If she is coloring, then what artwork she is trying to create.
The moment you see a change in her mood towards worse, intervene.
Remember, prevention is better than cure. Remove her from the undesirable scene, remove the trigger, or engage her in something else.
Have One Guaranteed Way of Controlling Her Behavior
It is not.
Despite everything you take care of, things are bound to go out of control. For those times, you must have at least one trick up your sleeve that works. 100% of the time.
Record How You Control Difficult Situations
You have already enlisted behavior triggers. Start noting down what you did to successfully control the child’s tantrum. You will be surprised to see a pattern.
You will be able to cull a couple of ways to change her mood immediately, even when she is at her worst.
Do the One Thing She Loves
My daughter loves listening to stories. Whenever I feel she is getting angry, I ask her if she wants to hear a story. Nine times out of 10 the bait is successful. For the one time, it is not, I offer the irresistible line – I have a new story to tell.
And I ensure that I have a new story to tell.
If you renege on a promise made to the child, you will lose her faith, which is far more important than one or two instances of aggressive behavior.
For your child it could be playing with her favorite toy or puzzle, going out to the park or dancing to her favorite number.
Aggressive or timid, active or dull, friendly or hostile, all kids are equally lovable. And, equally adept at giving their parents a tough time too.
Just because your child is aggressive does not mean she deserves more than her share of punishment. And less than her share of love. In fact, she needs more of it.
It’s you and you alone who can decide the course of corrective action to be taken. There are many ways how you can handle aggressive kids.
You need to teach her how to behave with peers, elders and younger ones. You also must tell her how she needs to conduct herself around strangers. Unless you explain to her what is expected of her, she will be confused and display worse behavior.
Teach, preach, counsel, do what you feel is right but always support your child. If she feels abandoned, her aggressiveness will increase.
And affirm her good behavior freely. If she controlled her reaction in a difficult situation, praise her.
She will try harder the next time.
Do read: How To Get Kids To Listen To You
Over to You –
Have you dealt with aggressive children, or are you dealing with one currently? How do you manage the bouts of aggression?
Do share your nuggets of wisdom for me and everyone else to learn from.
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