With no direction, teaching or discipline, a child’s natural lack of self-control can make him downright savage. If left unchecked, toddlers will often kick, bite, hit, have tantrums and go into an uncontrollable rage. If you don’t correct this behavior, your child’s aggression could get worse, turning a normal childhood phase into a more serious behavioral problem.
Aggression and the Family
According to research conducted by Dr. Arantzazu Bellido, a Spanish psychologist, a direct relationship exists between a child’s behavior and her family environment and that aggressive kids usually come from conflicted families. Bellido concluded that absent parents, restrictive paternal discipline, a child being unsatisfied with his family and an overworked and stressed-out mother tend to produce an aggressive child.
Discipline is not just punishing your child; it is teaching your child. The best approach to disciplining your child to prevent aggressive behavior is to show your child love, affection and stability. Start this teaching when your child is a baby. When your baby smiles, smile back at him. Praise your child when you catch him doing something right. Once you and your child share trust and respect, he is more likely to listen to you when you invariably have to correct misbehavior. When your child plays with friends, let him work out minor disagreements, but if the disagreements escalate to all-out war, complete with biting, hitting and raging, you need to separate the kids. Whenever your child misbehaves, you must be consistent with your discipline. This sets up a pattern and expectations. For example, if every time your child hits, kicks or bites, you make him apologize and remove him from the situation, he should soon learn that there are consequences to his behaviors.
Beyond the Home
Not only is an aggressive child difficult for you to live with, an aggressive child usually has problems in school, too. Aggressive kids tend to dislike learning, are rejected by their classmates and act out in class.
Teach your child by example. If she sees you getting into physical fights at home or bursting out in a rage, then you can’t expect your child to behave any better. Model and teach appropriate ways for your child to deal with anger, such as saying “no” in a firm voice, turning her back or, for older kids, talking it out and compromising. If you are a calm voice of reason at home, even if you are angry, you model that good behavior, too.
When to Get Help
If your child’s aggressive behavior is past the point of you being able to control it, call your doctor. If your child is causing injury to others, attacks you or others, gets sent home from school, isn’t allowed to play at neighbors’ homes and if you fear your own child, you need to seek help. Maybe you can learn better ways to discipline your child, or maybe your child needs mental health intervention.