Aggression Management 101

Is your tyke's belligerent behavior wearing you down? Check out our tricks for handling aggression.

Learn how to punish your child for aggressive behavior, such as biting or hitting, and whether his punishment should be adjusted as he gets older.

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Children's aggressive acts are often a way of exerting their independence and learning self-control. But an even-tempered, consistent response from you will teach your child to react calmly to life's frustrations, says Karen DeBord, Ph.D., a child development specialist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Here are some ways to handle children's typical aggressive behaviors:

Age: 1-2Behavior: Grabbing a toy from another childYour Response: Give the toy back and distract your child with another object or an activity. Ideally, have plenty of toys to go around. What looks like fighting to adults is really how toddlers learn to get along.

Age: 3-5Behavior: Hitting a playmateYour Response: Acknowledge your child's feelings but let him know that hitting is not allowed. Then let him choose between two acceptable solutions: "I understand that you're mad about losing your space, but you can't hit your sister just because you're angry. You can let her share the couch with you, or you can sit on that chair."

Age: 6-8Behavior: Door slamming, foot stompingYour Response: Give your child time to calm down. Then reason with her to figure out what she needs (such as attention or control): "I can tell you're upset. Can you tell me what happened?" Older kids have more self-control but may still act out their frustrations.

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Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the March 2002 issue of Child magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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