Dealing with Children’s Aggressive Behavior

Dealing with Children's Aggressive Behavior
Aggressive Behavior

 

Well, I can joke around about the whining, but dealing with children’s aggressive behavior is a different ball game. With aggression, it’s time to get serious.

If your child is acting aggressive, you must get back to the ABC basics. This behavior is not age appropriate and needs to stop. By the time they reach kindergarten, the tantrums, hitting, kicking, and attempts at aggression should absolutely be gone. In fact, I rarely see aggression in these kids unless it’s attached to a diagnosis of some sort, or it’s modeled in the home. There may be the stray spoiled or immature (possibly born premature) child who will throw a fit or take a swing here and there, but whatever the reason, it should not be tolerated.

ABC each situation and look at motivating factors. When the kid hits, he does NOT get what he wants. Period. End of story. Give him the opposite. Figure out what is going to (P) punish. Look at how you are reinforcing the aggression and stop. The behavior is coming from somewhere and many times we have no earthly idea that we are reinforcing behavior we don’t want to see.

A woman recently wrote to me that her child was being aggressive on the school bus and the driver was threatening to kick her off. I told her that something was reinforcing the behavior.  Someone had been letting her get away with this, and now it was out of control.  To address the behavior on the bus, she needed to first make sure she was totally on top of her child at home.  That behavior does NOT get reinforced.  Meaning, do NOT give her what she wants.  She gets no attention, no talking, no feedback.  Put her in a time-out if need be and make sure she gets no attention while she’s there. 

Do not engage the behavior (“Honey, what’s wrong?” “Why are you kicking?” “Cut it out”). When you start a discussion with her on the behavior, you are engaging. So don’t do it. She goes to time-out or to her room (unless that’s what she wants. . . in which case she does not get to go there), or you walk away. If she’s throwing a fit and being aggressive because she doesn’t want to do something, then by golly, make sure she does it. If you give in at all and don’t make her do it, you reinforce the aggression. It works, and she’ll do it again.  So when she’s finished with the tantrum, she still has to do the task. Period.

Just remember to let the kid calm down first. Most of the time, especially when children flip out and go into hyper-tantrum, we don’t let them finish and calm down on their own. We get too busy going into lecture mode. Then we don’t go through with our consequence, we don’t make them complete the task that spurred the aggression, and we effectively reinforce the darn tantrum. It’s rather useless. So follow through with your consequences, and make sure the child does what was originally asked.