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Young children and aggressive behavior

My kid hits other children



Sometimes we respond to our child's aggression with yelling or anger, but the child is looking for clues on how to control his impulses and have good behavior. The first step is understanding the underlying reasons why your child is choosing to act out this way. The more you understand what’s happening, the better you’ll be able to help them find other, non-aggressive ways to solve their problems.

Between the ages of 18 months to 2 years, children find it extremely hard to communicate their needs to other people. Negative behaviors are one way they may choose to get their point across. For older children between the ages of three and six, such behaviors may be the result of never having learned appropriate, non-aggressive ways of communicating when they were faced with a difficult situation. The cause of aggressive behaviors may be due to any or all of the following:

  • Self-defense
  • Being placed in a stressful situation
  • Lack of routine
  • Extreme frustration or anger
  • Inadequate speech development
  • Over-stimulation
  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of adult supervision
  • Mirroring the aggressive behaviors of other children around them


Punishing a child who hits doesn't stop the hitting. It just increases the child's fear, making future hitting more likely. Many times kids who display aggressive behaviors simply lack the communication skills necessary to help them through a stressful situation. 

Some questions you should ask yourself: Who does my child hit, bite or kick? Does he do it to one friend in particular? Does he only do it to me? Or does he tend to be aggressive with whomever he is with? If it’s one person in particular, try to find out if there’s a reason why he’s attacking that child such as engaging in overly aggressive play, a poor match of temperaments or a lack of clear cut rules before play begins.

At the first sign that your child is about to become aggressive, immediately step in and remove him from the situation. Be careful not to give too much attention to your child so that you do not give any negative reinforcement for the bad behavior. Too much attention can include trying to “talk through” the problem. 

As parents, we need to show self-control and use gentle words if we want our kids to do the same. It’s easy to respond with yelling or anger, but remember, your child is looking to you for cues on how to control his impulses and have good behavior. keep in mind that their negative behavior is most likely happening because they are still navigating their way through their social circles. This can be very difficult for some kids, so try not to over-react or personalize it.

 One technique that works very well for some children is to change the tone and volume of your voice. You can help your child stay calm by immediately lowering your voice when attending to the victim as well as to your child. If this does not work for your child and he simply cannot calm down, leave him where he is (again, at an age-appropriate distance) and ignore the tantrum. Most young children will not continue to act out if they no longer have an audience.

Parents and educators have to teach young children that agressive behaviors are inappropiate, first, when they are very young, a routine on how bad is to hit can be useful. “No hitting. It is wrong.” Remember that you may have to repeat this rule numerous times, using the same words, until your child gets it. Be firm and consistent each time your child becomes aggressive. Have a plan in place for consequences if aggressive behavior starts.

When they are older, between 3 and 7 years old, they deserve an explanation. Children are ready to talk about anger, it is an important feeling. Remember that they may be experimenting with cause and effect. In other words, they want to see what you will do when they act out. It’s your job to provide the consequences for the "effect" to work. Since older children are more verbal, you can use a variety of phrases when they misbehave. But When you catch your child being good, be sure to praise their hard work and efforts. Never bite or hit back. It can be tempting to want to teach your child a lesson in how it feels to be the victim of aggression, but when you succumb to a childlike form of communication, you are teaching your child that aggression is the answer to resolving a conflict.