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6 Ways to Curb Your Child's Aggressive Behavior

Most people feel anger and aggression sometimes -- including children. Adults tend to have better control over their behavior when these feelings arise. Children, however, may turn their energy toward violent behavior such as kicking, biting, or hitting. If your child has a tendency toward this kind of aggressive behavior, it's up to you to help him develop judgment, self-discipline, and the ability to express his feelings in appropriate ways. Here are six ways to do that:

1. Set firm and consistent limits. Children need to know what behavior is, and is not, permitted. Make sure that everyone who cares for your child is aware of the rules you set, as well as the response to use if he does exhibit this behavior. A child who kicks, hits, or bites should be reprimanded immediately so he understands exactly what he's done wrong.

2. Help your child find new ways to deal with her anger. Encourage her to use words to express her feelings rather than fighting with her body, and praise her for exhibiting nonviolent behavior. Let her witness other conflicts that arise in your home being resolved in a peaceful manner.

3. Instill self-control in your child. Children don't possess an innate ability to control themselves. They need to be taught not to kick, hit, or bite whenever they feel like it. A child needs a parent's guidance to develop the ability to keep his feelings under control and to think about his actions before acting on impulse.

4. Avoid encouraging "toughness." In some families, aggressiveness is encouraged -- especially in boys. Parents often use the word "tough" to compliment a child. This can cause a child to feel that she has to kick and bite in order to win parental approval.

5. Don't spank as a form of discipline. Some parents spank or hit their child as punishment. A child who is physically punished can begin to believe this is the correct way to handle people when you don't like their behavior. Physical punishment can reinforce a child's aggressiveness toward others.

6. Control your own temper. Children tend to mirror the behavior of their parents. If you express your anger in reasonable ways, he probably will follow your example.

Source: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Bantam, 1998)

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.