How to Decrease Aggressive Behaviors in Kids

Here I’m talking about how to deal with aggressive behaviors. These are my 7 tips on the subject.

1. Find the Cause

Ask yourself what’s actually causing the behavior? Is it toys, people, or a perhaps certain time of day? Could the child be tired or hungry? Try to figure out what’s causing the child to be so frustrated and then adjust those things or avoid them completely if possible. If it’s a certain toy that is causing this behavior every time then my suggestion would be to get rid of that toy. 

2. Check what shows and videos your child watches

Really look into the types of shows or videos your child is watching. Many kids’ shows these days have a lot of fighting, especially superhero cartoons and movies. So if your child is having aggressive behaviors, think about what they are being exposed to visually, because children will copy what they see. 

3. Talk about “Soft Hands”

Use the phrase “soft hands” and start talking about what soft, gentle hands are and make sure to model it through the week. You could practice using soft hands with a stuffed animal or a real pet. Do some nice petting with “soft hands.” Make sure to verbally tell them that you like that they are using “soft hands.” That way when the hitting happens later, you can remind the child to use soft hands and they will actually know what you are talking about.

4. Move out of the Way

My suggestion is to get up and move away from the child who is hitting. You can still converse with them but there is no need to continually be hit. Try doing your own fun activity in another spot in the room and more than likely your child will want to be near you and will come over to play with you again. Then you can remind them about “soft hands.”

5. Show Controlled Emotion

I suggest showing controlled emotion visually on your face and in your tone of voice. It really is important for kids to understand that their actions affect other people and that this aggressive behavior is not liked by others. Keep in mind, they are very young and their brains are developing so they haven’t really matured to have empathy yet, but we can model empathy. So when I get hit by my lovely little toddler clients in therapy, this is what I say, “Oh, no, I don’t like that. Ouch. That hurt.” And I really empathize with my face and my tone. I use a serious tone but am not yelling or angry in any way.  Often the kids don’t realize that their actions are actually hurtful so I like to explain to them that it hurt and then I remind them to use, “soft hands.” And if they do use soft hands I’d respond by saying, “Oh, I like that! Thank you.” 

6. Give Words to their Actions

Usually what they mean by their hitting behavior is “NO!” or “STOP.” These are two really important for words for kids to be able to use, right? I call them “survival words” because they are so necessary for dealing with other people and especially if kids are among other children, like siblings or in a preschool.  If they are not able to imitate or use words yet then I give them a gesture as a way of expressing what they mean. For “no” I model a hand gesture of an open palm out. For “stop” I model a gesture of one hand moving into the other. This allows some aggression to get out without someone being hit. Side note! You can teach them to say “no,” but then you can always follow up with a kind but serious response of, “Mommy and Daddy decide, and we say yes.”

7. Give Appropriate Consequences

Consequences are a natural part of life and it’s my opinion that they really should be a part of your toddler’s life as well. Here are some examples. If they hit, you move away. That’s a natural consequence, right? Most people would move away from someone who is trying to hit them.  If they got maybe too hyper or too crazy with a certain toy and are hitting, then you could stop the activity and take away the item. Not in a mean way but in a way of showing them, “When you do things like this, when you hurt, somethings will go away.”  I hope this helps! Please share this article on social media. Happy talking with your little toddler! Disclaimer: I am a licensed speech-language pathologist in California. This video is meant to be a general education for parents and therapists. Every child is different and this should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with a professional in your area.

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