Has your child been lashing out and biting his friends lately? Has his teacher been complaining about his atrocious behavior in class?
You’ve tried to correct your child, but the behavior seems to be getting worse. No one at home hits your child, so what could be causing such a violent outburst in him?
Like many others, your child may be displaying the emotion of “aggression.” Experts describe this feeling as a way of surviving and protecting oneself from potential harm.
While we may confuse aggression with anger, we must learn to distinguish between the two. Anger is a temporary outburst of frustration, while aggression is anger in the form of violent or hostile behavior.
Signs of Aggressive Behavior in Children
- He vehemently yells at or hits others
- He smashes his fists on the wall, floor or table in frustration
- He always seems to get in trouble for showing aggressiveness
- Despite talking to the child, his violent behavior hasn’t stopped
- He shows aggression towards a sibling at home, to the point of injuring him
- Often gets into a brawl with other kids in the school bus and even fights in school
- Displays self-harming behavior like biting self or hitting his head on the wall or floor
Continue reading to know the causes of aggressive behavior in children
Causes of Aggressive Behavior in Children
1. Unregulated emotions
Occasional displays of aggressive behavior in children are quite common in children between ages one to three as they hit and bite for various reasons – imitation of peers, teething woes, frustrations or testing of cause and effect.
Various forms of physical aggression in children are fairly common as they have not learned how to control their emotions.
Biting, for example, may come natural to a child who cannot regulate his emotions and doesn’t have well-developed communication skills.
2. More serious behavioral problems
While some biting is normal, repeated biting or hitting may indicate a more serious behavioral problem that requires expert intervention.
Children who regularly hit, bite or scratch may be manifesting underlying emotions such as jealousy, displacement, unhappiness, or anxiety. Once these needs are met, the aggression will naturally dissipate.
In the book “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves,” author Naomi Aldort claims that children behave aggressively as a defense mechanism to their feelings of “helplessness.”
She recommends playing power games such as “Simon Says” and incorporating child-friendly activities that allow the child to have some control into the family routine.
4. Watching TV
Researchers at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine found a link between television viewing and aggressive behavior in children.
The more television a small child watches, the more likely he is going to exhibit aggressive behavior. Even if TV is just on the background, aggressive behavior can still surface in the future.
Researchers recommend no television viewing for children under two years old, and a maximum of only two hours for kids older than two.
5. Salicylate (a chemical)
Another little known culprit that has been linked to aggressive behavior in children is salicylate. It was discovered by Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatrician and Chief of Allergy at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco.
Salicylate is a chemical commonly found in aspirin and many natural food, and is believed to be one cause of ADHD symptoms (disruptive behavior, restlessness, impulsivity etc).
Read: Reye’s syndrome: Why taking aspirin can be fatal
Continue reading to know the causes of aggressive behavior in children and how to prevent it
6. Traumatic experience
A child who has been a victim of abuse himself or has witnessed a loved one facing abuse, turns to be aggressive in his demeanor.
7. Severe neglect
Neglect breeds an active volcano in your child’s head. Busy parents may not even be aware that they’re neglecting their kids.
Small things like failing to look after a child’s basic needs could possibly set off a destructive behavioral trait within him.
8. Learned behavior
Children learn by observation. If he is in the midst of a negative environment at home, he imitates such behavior.
Aggressive behavior in children commonly occurs because a child seeks attention from parents, teachers or peers. If a child is repeatedly ignored, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the aggression is encouraged.
9. Biological make-up
Aggressiveness is characteristic in children with developmental disorders such as pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), attention disorder hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mental retardation or autism.
Unfortunately, a child with such conditions are prone to destructive behavior even if he is not exposed to any form of violence.
Continue reading to know how to prevent aggressive behavior in children
How to Prevent Aggressive Behavior in Children
1. Be consistent
Consistency is an important factor when disciplining children. At a young age, children require some rules to help guide their growth and development.
A lack of boundaries can cause them to become confused and act out.
Be consistent in how you deal with them every time they display violent behavior. Do not ignore their aggressive behavior the first time, then scream at them the second time and attempt to reason with them the third time.
Although it may be difficult to practice, being consistent can help your child to cope with aggression.
It is always easier to prevent a habit than to stop it. Whenever you see your child beginning to hit or bite you or another child, block the attack before it makes contact. Reinforce your intention with a stern admonition, “That’s not allowed!”
3. Remove your child from the situation
Help your child regain control over his emotions by taking him somewhere else. The change in environment might have a calming effect on him.
Remaining in the situation that provoked his aggressive behavior might serve as a stimulus to his violent behavior.
4. Calm him down
If your child is unable to cope with his emotional outburst, envelop him in a gentle lock position where he is unable to hurt himself or anyone until he is calmer.
Alternatively, you may wish to place him in a time-out zone for an age-appropriate amount of time.
Then, talk to him and explain why hitting or biting is not allowed. Use words such as, “We don’t use our hands for hitting,” or “Biting hurts.”
Continue reading for more tips on preventing aggressive behavior in children
After stopping the aggressive behavior, take time to listen to why your child acted out. The exercise builds trust, opens communication lines and gives you a better insight on why your child behaves the way he does.
6. Help him regulate his emotions
On top of it all, recognize your child’s frustration or anger; help him identify and label the emotions.
Teach him to verbalize his feelings rather than act them out. Demonstrate that when he feels angry or upset, he could say, “I’m angry because…” or “I’m upset with…”
7. Enforce your leadership position
When a child is prevented from hitting or biting, he may respond with tears or defiance.
How adults react is, therefore, crucial to the future behavior of the child.
The sight of tears rolling down a child’s face is enough to tug at the heartstrings of any parent. Many parents mistake patience and love with non-discipline and children are quick to pick up on this Achilles’ heel.
Others have difficulty managing children’s open defiance, and thus hide behind statements like: “Boys will be boys” or “It’s just a phase.”
Read: Is your child pasaway or could he actually have a disorder?
Studies have shown that uncorrected aggressive behavior in children breeds adults with violent tendencies.
Hence, it is prudent that parents are firm in their authority as leaders of the family and clearly define what is considered as acceptable behavior in their household and when interacting with others outside the home.
8. Help your child prepare mentally
Another great way to prevent aggressive behavior in children is to give your child a pep talk beforehand. This comes in handy if you know when and where your child has a tendency to act aggressively.
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