Some parents might find themselves wondering why their child is showing aggressive and violent behaviour. Maybe the tantrums have become more frequent, and your child has started to hit you, or throw things in anger. It can be quite shocking for parents to suddenly see this kind of violence in their young child. 

It’s just a phase…

Children usually pass through a phase of using physical violence to get their message across to their parents. This is actually a typical behaviour in young toddlers, even though it might take the parents by surprise. Violent behaviour typically starts to happen when your child is not yet able to express themselves using their words. They are trying to communicate their negative emotions in a way which can be understood by those around them.

Once children learn how to express their anger and frustration with their words, the physical violence usually tends to decrease gradually. 

Or is it?

With this being said, it is important for parents to be able to realise when the violence they are seeing in their child is not developmentally appropriate anymore. If the violent behaviour persists for a long time or is getting out of hand, you may need to seek professional guidance. 

Some parents are at a loss on how they can address the violence they are seeing in their child. Here are some ways that you can tackle your child’s aggressive behaviour.

1. Stay Calm

When you child is acting violently towards you or towards their environment, it is important to remain calm. Reacting to your child in anger or violence yourself, will only continue to pass on the message that violence is the way to go. Model appropriate behaviour to your child so that they can begin to understand what is okay and what is not. It is extremely challenging to remain calm when your child is acting up, however it is something that ultimately will help the situation and your child to calm down too.

2. Don’t Give In

If your child is having a tantrum and acting violently towards you because they want chocolate or to buy a new toy, do not give in. Giving your child what they are acting violently to get, will only reinforce the idea that if they act this way, they ‘win’. If your child is acting violently because they are frustrated about something, first help them to calm down, and then explain why they can or cannot get what they want. If you will be giving the child what they want, it is important to explain to them that they first have to calm down and ask nicely for what they need. Explain to your child that violence is not the way to go. To help your child calm down you can give them some space or provide a distraction. Once they are calm, you can then explain to them and reason with them. 

3. Reward Good Behaviour

When you catch your child asking for something nicely, praise them! Make an effort to point out each time your child is waiting patiently and regulating their own emotions. Positive reinforcement works wonders with children. Rewarding them doesn’t always mean giving them sweets or buying them a new toy. Praising them and letting them know that you are seeing their good behaviour is reward enough at times. 

4. Seek Help

If you have been trying to address your child’s violent behaviour for a while, without seeing any improvements, it may be time to seek professional help. A professional in child behaviour will be able to give you tips on how to help your child.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Lisa Laspina is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently working with Willingness. She is reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy.