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Is your child aggressive?
Many parents are understandably concerned that their children displays aggressive behaviour at home, at school, or in the playground.
Research suggests that it’s important to intervene as early as possible if you observe this type of behaviour in your child.
Some approaches require the help of experienced professionals.
There are, however, things you can do at home to curb aggression.
Let’s look at some strategies to manage aggression in children.
Identifying Aggression in Children
It’s important to notice when children are aggressive towards other kids, siblings, and other family members.
Never ignore this type of behaviour or simply hope that it’s a passing phase.
Even a few incidents can result in a child getting a certain label that causes a long-term stigma.
Today, for example, the media frequently discusses bullying.
Children labelled as aggressive or as bullies are often ostracized by their peers, whose parents sometimes play a part by telling their child to ‘stay away’ from a child with anger management problems.
Early labels such as this create vicious cycles that can cause young people to see themselves in this way.
Early intervention helps you avoid this type of downward spiral.
Strategies to Manage Aggression
If you observe aggressive behaviour in your child, try to respond in a calm and reasonable manner.
Getting very upset or lashing out in an aggressive manner yourself only worsens the problem.
In fact, children with behavioural problems sometimes behave in unwanted ways in order to get more attention.
Here are a few tips to help curb aggression in children.
- Look for clues and patterns when your child is aggressive
Different types of situations trigger aggression. Some children behave aggressively when playing. Others make noise, complain, or get restless in shops or restaurants when they don’t get what they want. Pay close attention to when the aggressive behaviour occurs. This will help you find the cause and take steps to curb it in the future.
- Find constructive outlets
Certain activities, such as sports and vigorous play, channel energy in a positive way. Whether children enjoy soccer, swimming, martial arts, jumping on a trampoline, or other activities, when they find a way to express their natural energy, this can give them an outlet and a connection with like-minded kids.
- Encourage patience and impulse control
Aggressive children often have problems with patience and impulse control. One way to manage this is to teach them to delay gratification. Playing games where players take turns fosters this skill. The use of a ‘Time Timer’ on your smartphone or tablet could also give your aggressive child the support that’s needed to help them to wait without losing their temper.
- Give your child a time-out (or ‘time away’)
A time-out simply means removing children from a certain environment or situation until they calm down. They are designed to ‘short-circuit’ a pattern of negative behaviour and don’t have to be a punishment if you use the right words to explain why time away is needed. Explain that your child needs to settle down if he or she wants to resume the activity. Time-outs may apply when children are playing too aggressively, throwing tantrums in public, or causing problems at home. (Toys that are the subject of conflict can go into time-out too. Removing them so that your warring children have to find something else to play with can be short-term solution that prevents aggressive behaviour from arising.)
- Teach personal responsibility
It’s extremely important for children to take responsibility for their own behaviour. Watch for any tendency to blame others for aggression, as in “I only hit him because he wouldn’t give me the ball.” Emphasise that aggression is never acceptable, even when someone does something that your child doesn’t like.
While there are many ways, including the above tips, to help curb aggression, sometimes parents need help.
Some children require professional support to identify the root of the problem and evidence strongly indicates that early intervention reduces aggressive behaviour when young people grow up.
When seeking help, it’s important to find someone with the proper training and credentials.
A professional who uses evidence-based strategies can make a big difference when it comes to solving issues such as aggression. Your local GP may be able to refer you to a psychologist who specialises in supporting children in your area.
If you are local to Sydney’s northern beaches, don’t hesitate to contact Kids First Children’s Services. Our experienced child psychologists have supported many aggressive children and have helped them find better ways to solve problems.
© 2017 Kids First Children’s Services
Kids First can help
The Kids First Children’s Services’ team includes child psychologists with years of experience working with children and families.
They can help you find the causes of aggressive behaviour and work with you to find solutions to overcome this kind of behaviour.
For expert support to help you deal with your child’s aggression and other behavioural problems, contact us.
Call Kids First on (02) 9938 5419 to chat about your child’s needs, or click on the link below to find out more about child and family counselling at Kids First.