Aggression during childhood is challenging to deal with. Parents worry if their child is belligerent, offensive to others, and consistently rough. It is essential that you watch and carefully control your child’s aggressive behaviors.
First, you should clearly and firmly let your child know what is and isn’t appropriate. Your child will not know how to act if you send inconsistent and confusing messages. Don’t excuse his aggression by saying, “Oh, that’s just how boys act,” or “At least he doesn’t hide his feelings.” Such attitudes don’t teach your child that his negative behaviors are unacceptable.
Instead of being ambiguous, consistently let your child know that fighting, hitting, and using mean words is unacceptable. “I absolutely won’t allow you to behave that way.” State the consequences of negative behavior so your child knows what to expect. “If you treat Nick roughly, you’ll have to come inside.”
It’s also important to find the source of your child’s aggression. He may be copying behavior he is subjected to at home. He may fight with his siblings or peers because he’s imitating you or to alleviate his feelings of fear, anger, and helplessness. And if he feels (from his point of view) that you don’t give him enough attention or listen to his feelings, he may act out his frustration in aggressive ways.
Some children are aggressive due to problems at school or because they generally feel inferior. They attack others to feel more powerful. Siblings sometimes fight because they think they’re being treated unfairly or because their parents actually do treat them in ways that encourage aggression, perhaps by favoring one or belittling another. The roots of aggression are sometimes difficult to find.
However, if you give your child more positive and playful attention at home, have realistic expectations for his age, praise him, nurture his interests, and set more consistent limits, aggressive behaviors will diminish. If aggressive behavior continues over a long period, you may need the guidance of a parenting coach or counselor.