Managing aggressive behavior in children has always been a concern for both parents and educators. All kids are different, as caregivers very well know. Some kids are naturally social, make friends easily, and get along with almost every child they meet. Others are more apprehensive, needing additional time, support or encouragement to be able to transition into play activities.
And, then, there are the children that are simply unhappy. The ones that are either unable or seem unwilling to form friendships, at times leaning towards destructive, even self-destructive, activities. What could possibly be happening with these children? Where could all this aggression be coming from? And, most importantly, how can we, as parents and caregivers, help?
Managing Preschool-Aged Kids and Aggressive Behavior
Firstly, in order to understand aggressive behavior in preschool-aged children, we must keep in mind that early childhood experiences play a significant role in their later behavior. Parents and caregivers can help by utilizing these five key recommendations:
- Consistency is Important:
When it comes to younger kids, it really is important to be consistent. That means aggressive behaviors should never be ignored. For example, if your child or student has issues with hitting other children or individuals, then you may consider responding with a comment such as, “It is not OK to hit people. Right now, you need to spend some time by yourself to calm down.” Always respond in a consistent manner, using the same words, every time this situation arises.
- Remove the Aggressive Child:
Often, you will need to remove the aggressive child out of a situation, and quite possibly have to deal with a toddler tantrum. This will help them to calm down and settle their emotions. For example, if the child in question is having an argument over a toy in class and are getting quite physical, you can tell them, “I know you want to play with this toy, but it is not your turn yet. If you calm down and start playing nicely, then you will be able to have some time to play with it. But, if you don’t stop hitting/punching/etc., then you won’t be allowed to get a turn.” If they do not follow through, then simply remove them from that specific play area until they calm down.
- Offer a Pep Talk:
If you are aware of a particularly sticky situation coming up, then why not give him a pep talk? You may be surprised at how effective it can be. If your child often has trouble playing “nicely” when the family visits a relative’s house, then it’s certainly worth having a set-the-rules chat ahead of time. Let them know exactly what you expect from them before you arrive. Keep it simple by saying something like, “It’s important that you play nicely with your cousins. If you start hitting/kicking/biting them, then we will leave right away.” Always clarify their understanding of your chat with a, “Do you understand?” That way, you know that they get the big picture.
- Hand Out the Time-Outs:
There’s nothing wrong with giving younger children a time-out, a time-in, or a time-whatever-you-want-to-call-it. They’re all essentially the same idea: some quiet time away from the commotion. Think about saying something like, “I need you to calm down right now. You cannot hit other people just because you’re mad. You can come back and play after two minutes if you have calmed down.” Try to keep the talking to a minimum. Remember, it’s not a lecture you’re giving, it’s instructions. Keep it short and be clear as to what you expect them to do.
- Coordinate with Parents and Caregivers:
Aggressive behavior, such as fighting, kicking or biting, occurs at home and in preschool or daycare. At such a young age, kids are still learning how to get along with each other. However, a parent or caregiver does need to deal with any sign of aggression immediately. Furthermore, intervention should be coordinated with the parents and caregivers since consistency is so very vital. Regular check-ins between the parents and caregivers will ensure behavior is improving.