Handling Aggressive Behavior

The lessons you teach your child about expressing anger and frustration may seem to have little impact during the first few years. Your child may still have angry aggressive outbursts and uncontrollable tantrums, at least occasionally. However, with consistency over time, these episodes will occur less frequently as a result of your teachings. Learning how to handle anger without becoming destructive or hurtful is an invaluable lesson for anyone, child or adult.

Be a Role Model

Being a role model not only involves controlling your own emotions, but also teaching your children how to express their emotions appropriately. Be the kind of person that you would like your child to grow up to be.

Reward Good Behavior

Praise even the smallest attempt at proper behavior, while paying very little attention to negative conduct. Praise can be a very strong motivator. Children need to know their parents are proud of them. The key is to inform your child of what is expected, to reward them quickly after they comply and to always withhold any and all rewards if they are not following directions.

Teach Empathy

Young children do not understand how their actions impact others. There is little thought behind most aggression. Instead it is impulse. We must teach them how their actions impact others by prompting them to think about it, “If your sister bit you how do you think you would feel?”

Watch What They’re Watching

Limit your child’s exposure to the violence in the media. Children, who see aggressive or violent behavior on TV, tend to be more aggressive when they play. Encourage books, music, games and shows that promote kindness and non-aggressive problem solving skills.

Know the Triggers

Knowing that your child becomes easily upset under certain circumstances allows you to avoid or work around these situations or at least be prepared for them.

Avoid Physical Punishment

Do not use spanking, flicking, grabbing or any other physical forms of punishment. If you expect your children to act responsibly and calmly, be sure to do so yourself.

Increase Emotional Awareness

Discuss feelings when processing after a time-out (e.g. “Were you mad when your sister took your train without asking you?”) Use feelings vocabulary in your daily language as a way of modeling for your child. Many children are aggressive because they do not have the words to express themselves.

Acknowledge Feeling Behind Aggressive Behavior

Accept and acknowledge your child’s angry feelings and direct her towards an appropriate outlet for expressing the intense emotion. When feelings are accepted, your child will feel more understood, less in need of trying to convince you of their standpoint and therefore calmer. The more you can encourage your child to express difficult feelings, the less emotions will build up and overflow into angry explosions.


All aggressive displays will result in a time-out and may also result in an additional consequence. Get down to your child’s level and, using a calm, low but firm tone which indicates displeasure, clearly tell him what he has done wrong and bring him straight to the time-out area. For a child who is frequently aggressive, additional consequences may be necessary.

Stay Calm 

It is much easier for your child to relax if you are also calm. The more aggravated your child sees you become the more power she has gained over you and the more likely she will be to repeat the behavior.

Practice Appropriate Anger Options

Role-play a situation that would normally result in aggression and ask him to come up with ways to meet his needs without violence. Practice things from the anger options list. Only do this when he is calm. Just as you wouldn’t try to teach a drowning person to swim, tantrums are NOT a good time to learn this new skill.

By Jodi Maspaitella. Jodi Maspaitella is a parent coach and will come to your bay-area home providing education on ways to handle the challenges most parents face.  For more information about Jodi’s Home Education 4 Logical Parenting services call (707) 557-1423 or visit her website at www.familieshelp.net