Your child displaying or engaging in behavior perceived as aggressive or violent is always hard to navigate as caregivers because it hurts to see someone we love experience such overwhelming emotions. While it can be easy to tie your child’s behavior back to what you did wrong, oftentimes their behavior can stem from other things such as events occurring at school, a bad day or experience, world events, or changes in their life. Many children have difficulties with expressing their emotions in general which can cause emotions to stay hidden under the surface and never fully addressed, so even small events can cause a rupture of built-up emotions.

Aggression and violence are the most common ways for a child to gain power and control within their home environment. It is key to have consistency with not only how you react and handle the situation, but how you hold the child accountable when their behavior gets violent. Using consequences instead of punishments allows for the child to modify their behavior rather than a one-time retribution that causes more anger and frustration. Consequences stand to address the behavior, offer a logical task or loss of privilege, and a clear end result once the child has shown improvement in behavior. Consistency and communication is key in having everyone be on the same page so there are no surprises that can cause consequences to be viewed as punishments.

Depending on the age of the child, you may have to communicate with them a plan of action for when their behavior starts to escalate. What is important is that the plan consists of everyone feeling and being safe and everyone’s boundaries are respected. Consistency can be key in helping children cope with emotions along with calmness when things escalate so the child feels safe at all times. Pushing boundaries can continue to escalate emotions, so having an open discussion about how to best support them can avoid this and help your child feel empowered. If behavior continues to escalate, create a safety plan to keep everyone and yourself safe.

Aggression and violent behaviors often signal that there is something within your child’s life causing them distress. Getting them involved with different types of support such as therapy can help your child learn how to identify and express their emotions while learning healthy coping skills. Other community resources could be afterschool clubs, activities, or sports. Physical activity is a great way to cope with feelings of anger, aggression, and frustration. However, the biggest support comes from you as the guardian. By modeling safe and appropriate ways to communicate and express emotions, your child can pick up those practices themselves and know they are in a safe space.

Author

  • Annmarie Ivey

    Activist, artist, and dedicated animal rescuer, Annmarie currently resides in Texas with their exceptionally perfect cats and works as a children’s counselor. Before working at HCWC, they received their undergraduate degree in child development specialized in teaching English as a second language from Humboldt State University. After that, just to shake things up, they went all the way to UTSA to receive a graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling. However, Annmarie’s passion in education and activism began in their first semester of undergraduate when they were a marine biologist major tasked with working with the Yurok tribe to research toxic algae residing in the Klamath River. Through working with the Yurok, Annmarie realized their calling resided in advocating for different marginalized groups and educating the general public. Thus, bringing us today where Annmarie spends their time being their cat’s personal 24/7 photographer and assisting in #stopthehate and other movements to bring justice, equity, healing, and freedom to all.