All children sometimes hit, bite or exhibit other aggressive behaviors as they develop. This does not mean that your child is “aggressive”. It usually means that your child is experimenting with different ways of reacting to different situations. If you teach your child different ways of reacting, most children will grow out of hitting, clawing or biting before turning aggressive behaviors into a habit.
1. Self-defense. A child who has been hit by other children or thinks they’re going to be hit by another child is more likely to hit back.
2. Imitation. If your child has seen other kids hit or bite, they might start trying it as well, especially if the other children seemed to get what they wanted as a result of their aggressive behavior. Kids also imitate what they see on TV, so make sure you know what they’re watching.
3. Excitement. When kids get too excited and overly stimulated, they sometimes lash out physically just because they don’t know what to do with all their energy and they have to do something.
4. Anger. They feel aggressive emotions inside because they are too frustrated at something that happens and they lash out.
5. Lack of Communication Skills. If your child doesn’t know how to verbally express what they want or how they feel, it’s normal for them to turn to physical means to express themselves.
1. Focus on speech development. Make sure your child has the verbal communication skills needed to express what he wants or needs. Practice how to ask for toys nicely instead of just grabbing, or how to ask another child to stop doing something instead of starting to hit. Also teach them how to express their emotions verbally, saying when they are sad, tired, angry, scared, etc.
2.Help your child find other forms of release. Emotion can only build up inside so far without leading to a violent verbal outbreak or physical outbreak (this is true for ALL of us, not only the kids!). If your child learns how to release their emotion when it starts to build, they can more easily avoid physical outbreaks. Listening to music, running or jumping, talking, or punching a punching bag are all ways to release emotion without hitting or lashing out. You can also help your child discover things they can think about that make them happy and help them calm down.
3. Help your child choose friends wisely. The more they are surrounded by positive examples of how to behave, the more they will develop valid responses and behaviors.
4. Supervise your child. In addition to just being present and making sure the environment is safe, pay attention to what your child is doing and how they’re feeling. If you can identify situations that upset your child before their feelings escalate, you can help diffuse them before your child is pushed past their limit.
5. Remove your child from the situation. Stop the negative behavior. If your child starts hitting or biting, take them to a different room or area. This prevents their behavior from escalating or minimizes the effect it can have on the rest of the children in the room. It also takes your child away from the stimulus and helps them focus on you as you help them calm down and address their behavior.
6. Stay calm. Talk calmly. React calmly. Your own reaction is an example of how they should react. By staying calm and respectful, you reinforce the importance of them learning how to stay calm and respectful.
7. Identify your child’s limitations. Avoid placing them in situations that would stretch them beyond their limit until they have further matured and developed effective coping mechanisms.
8. Teach your child how to think of alternative solutions. In addition to just calming themselves down, how can they solve the problem they’re facing? Can they suggest taking turns? Or just go play with something else, or someone else? Or go to an adult for help?
9. Talk to your child about how aggressive behaviors make others feel. Explain to them how hitting, or biting or kicking hurt other people. It can hurt them physically, but it hurts their feelings too. Most children are naturally very empathetic and, once they realize something could hurt someone, they avoid doing it. Make sure, however, that you don’t make your child feel bad or guilty. Be patient with them. They are going through a normal phase of development and are learning what is or isn’t acceptable. Instead of focusing on how “wrong” hitting, and other aggressive behaviors are, focus on how proud you are of them as they learning new and more appropriate ways of responding.