Are you worried about aggressive behavior in children? Does a child you know exhibit aggressive behaviors? Do you want to learn more about aggression in children and how to help?
You are not alone.
When children exhibit high levels of aggression their parents and teachers worry. What is the problem? Why is the child behaving in this manner? What is contributing to and maintaining the aggressive behaviors? And what can they do to help?
Aggressive behavior in children is associated with psychological distress and upset in the young person, and he or she is often hard to calm. It is frequently difficult to sooth the young person when he is behaving aggressively, and to assist him in managing his behaviors. These behaviors contribute to problems for the aggressive child, and he is often written off as "naughty" or "bad" and punished.
Aggressive behavior in children upsets others as well. Aggressive children may be argumentative and verbally aggressive. They may have difficulty controlling their temper and are
easily upset and annoyed by others. They are often defiant and may
appear angry and resentful.Their aggressive behaviors can disrupt lessons in school and hurt, intimidate and frighten other children.
Unless we intervene to help these children, they are at risk of developing various behavior disorders, like Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder. As their problems increase, their aggressive behaviors threaten the safety of other children, and/or adults. When the aggressive behaviors escalate to this level, some of these children are expelled or suspended from school. The protection of other children and their teachers is the prime concern when this occurs.
Some children exhibit aggressive behaviors that are less extreme or problematic, but worrisome nonetheless. They may slap or poke other children or pinch them. Some children throw small objects or bang and break things when they are angry and upset. Others have temper tantrums and kick or scream.
Aggressive behavior in children can manifest as verbal aggression, such as calling other children names, threatening or teasing them. Or they may psychologically victimize other children by excluding them and spreading rumours about them.
Aggressive children need help to develop healthy coping strategies to control their behaviors and manage anger and conflict, and other distressing feelings and situations. We need to teach them alternative ways to solve problems. We need to provide strategies to help calm and sooth their nervous systems, so they are not so easily triggered and thrown into the "fight " response when threatened.
Children do not behave aggressively because they are "naughty or "bad." Aggressive behavior in children may result from brain patterns that have been shaped by prior experiences, usually those involving relationships and/or specific social experiences, or actual trauma itself, either a single trauma, or more chronic, complex relationship traumas. These brain patterns, in turn, trigger the "fight response." And the child responds aggressively to ward off the perceived threat. This process is often unconscious, and immediate, and out of the child's control. Others around the child may find it hard to perceive any discernible threat, or if they do, it may appear largely benign, and that any aggressive response is unjustified.
Consequently, it is often the brain, shaped, in part, by prior experiences, that lies behind the aggressive behavior in children.Multiple factors interact to foster aggressive behavior in children.
In some cases, for example, the interaction between the child’s temperament and/or a genetic predisposition and environmental influences (e.g. toxic stress) can increase a child’s reliance on aggression as a major coping strategy.
Some of the multiple factors that interact and can contribute to high levels of aggression in children include the following:
The following suggestions can help you address aggressive behavior in children. Try those that apply to your situation.
Remember, behavior change takes time. It requires consistency and follow through.
Be on the look out for small changes. Small steps make a difference and will lead you and your child toward a positive outcome. Notice when things are working or positive change is occurring, however small these steps may seem.
Consistency, follow through and patience increases the chances that your efforts will pay off. Try some of the following and help address Aggressive Behavior in Children.
Dr. O'Connor offers psychological testing services to assist with a range of psychological challenges in young people, including aggressive behaviors. If the aggressive behaviors that concern you, show little sign of abating, despite your efforts to address them, a comprehensive psychological assessment or school neuropsychological evaluation is recommended to help get to the root of the problem, and point to evidence based interventions to address it.
If your child lacks empathy or concern for the people he has hurt or if he hurts and is cruel to animals seek professional help. Similarly if your child’s aggression appears extreme and out of control at home or at school, or both, professional support is strongly recommended.
If your child’s behaviors are extreme or out of control seek the support of a psychologist or other mental health professional.
Or visit your local library or book store and find resources to help increase your understanding of aggressive behavior children and how to help.
Dr. O'Connor offers Psychological Testing Services which she tailors to fit the needs of aggressive behavior in children.
Remember"Understanding the Problem is the Key to Solving It."
The Psychological Assessment increases understanding of aggressive children and how to help. This understanding leads to evidence based interventions to
address these concerns in the child.
You will also learn how a child is coping and where his strengths lie. Find out where things are going well and where you might need to intervene to help?
Order Dr. O’Connor’s book--"I Can Be Me”. Although this book focuses on children of alcoholic parents, you can easily adapt it to help aggressive children and teach them healthy coping skills, such as how to handle their feelings, including anger, and how to problem solve and make good choices. Guidelines for doing so are included in the introduction and in various chapters in this book.