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Ways to Deal with Aggressive Behavior in Kids

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Is your young child exhibiting occasional aggressive behavior that has you concerned? Assuming this behavior isn’t the result of an underlying mental health issue, child experts say it is vital to address any episodes of aggressive behavior immediately so that your child clearly understands that is not an acceptable way to act. Consider these tips to deal with a young child’s aggressive behavior.

Understand Your Child’s Triggers

Look for issues relating to frustration, territorial squabbles and attention-seeking. Experts say these are the general areas that describe most incidents of aggression. Be aware of your child’s specific triggers – things such as wanting more attention from mom, dad or siblings or not wanting to share pets or toys. By identifying some of your child’s triggers, it may be possible to take steps to eliminate a major source of aggression. For example, if your child is unable to have a play date without getting angry when friends play with the family dog, remove the pet from the situation. If hide and go seek ends badly every time because your child gets frustrated if they can’t find their friend, change the game to something that isn’t so stressful for your child.

Stop Aggressive Behavior Immediately

Of course, there’s no need to scream or over-react, but aggressive behavior can sometimes lead to your child or a playmate getting injured. Experts say it’s OK in a controlled voice to tell your child “No” when he or she is becoming too aggressive. Consider a brief time-out to remove the child from the situation. Or, consider a warning, if appropriate, so that the child clearly understands your expectations. Never spank, push or become physical with your child. A number of studies show spanking sends the message that the bigger and stronger person can do as they wish. Research shows many bullies were spanked or whipped by parental figures when they were young.

Talk to Your Child, but Listen as Well

Allow your child to calm down, if necessary, and explain in a clear and rationale way exactly why the aggressive behavior was wrong. Make sure your child knows you value his explanation of what happened and try to be as loving and positive as possible. If your child bit a friend, for example, remind him that biting hurts and that his friends won’t want to come over to play if he continues to act that way. Tell your child how proud you are when he plays nicely with his friends.

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