On this page I will help you learn how to respond to aggressive children and ways to prevent child aggression as well as tips for developing anger management techniques. Combative behavior usually starts earlier in the toddler years with temper tantrums, toddler hitting and/or biting, but these behaviors should disappear or at least decrease dramatically with the tantrum stage around age 5.
However, for individuals diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD NOS), sensory processing disorder, or behavioral disorder, including signs of ADHD, aggression may persist into adolescence. There is hope! With proper intervention techniques, you can eliminate and decrease these undesirable behaviors.
The interventions provided on the temper tantrum page work well for aggressive children that are younger with ways to say no without aggression or "tantrum-like behavior" and how to respond when they are unable to get desired items or unable to do desired activities.
I also feel that the following books are phenomenal for helping parents learn how to provide logical consequences to these undesirable behaviors that create a learning experience. You may have noticed them on other pages, but I can't praise the information they provide enough! They even teach you how to deliver consequences without the dreaded escalation into a full force scarier then ever incident.
The transition strategies page and compliance strategies page provide good techniques for helping to avoid aggression when someone doesn't want to change activities or when they are trying to escape from a request you have made. Some aggressive children may be trying to get attention, in which the attention seeking page would be helpful. Any attention can be reinforcing for some kids even if it is considered negative attention in the form of scolding.
Finally, if you have frequent or severe aggression you will definitely want to seek outside help. Having a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) come and observe your exact situation and conduct a functional assessment, would be a good option to help determine the best treatment interventions. However, there may likely be services available in your area through community mental health or waiver system for a minimal fee that would be able to help as well.
These types of behaviors are very serious and should not be taken lightly. Especially when dealing with young children, it is your best opportunity to effectively intervene and hopefully eliminate future incidents when the child is older and much stronger. Other things you can do include:
You may start by identifying what are common triggers or things that are known to precede the behavioral episodes seen in aggressive children. Once these triggers are recognized, be sure to create a list of them for all individuals to read and be aware of when working with potentially aggressive children. This helps those involved learn to avoid certain words or situations. Although, you want to make sure you aren't walking on egg shells all of the time. Sometimes it's just a matter of changing the way something is said. For example, instead of saying a harsh no when something is wanted that can't be had, you may say something else such as, let's talk about that after you finish your chores OR let me discuss it with your dad and let you know later. More about how to do this can be found by clicking the link above.
As behaviors escalate, some parents find it very difficult to help them calm down and are unsure of ways to do this. One way that I have found to be effective for caregivers and parents that correctly apply the technique is to work on anger management and develop coping skills with relaxation training through the use of music and deep breathing exercises. Essentially you teach them how to be calm and relaxed during times that there aren't stressful situations. Then when they are stressed and likely to become angry, you can help them apply those techniques. You can learn more about this by clicking the link above.
This book is by an amazing psychiatrist that I personally had the opportunity to meet and see speak at a conference. There were even parents of children there that raved about how he saved their son. I have to admit I was skeptical at first when I realized the speaker was a psychiatrist.
However, by the end of the first session that was part one I was completely captivated by the information he offered. He provided an alternative viewpoint about aggression that I believe is very true. He refers to it as being the result of an immature adrenaline systems overreactivity or (IASO).
He discussed the two different types of adrenaline (Beta and Alpha) and symptoms of adrenaline overreactivity for each type based on physical and behavioral symptoms. Then he explained that by using Beta and Alpha blocker medications (these are actually blood pressure medications not psychotropics) the combative behaviors disappear.
His book is detailed providing even the types of medications he prefers and why. He has written it so that parents will be able to take it to their doctor and hopefully see if they are willing to at least try them.
I think that in certain situations this could be such a relief for everyone involved. He even said that it does not have to be permanent, but used temporarily until their system matures or they are able to learn better coping skills.
In consideration of this particular topic, I attempted to research the possibility of preventing the adrenaline system from overreacting. What I discovered is that there are some things that can make the body more likely to release high amounts of adrenaline leading to feelings of anger.
Some of these things include poor sleep quality and a diet high in sugar or simple carbohydrates, OR large amounts of caffeine. So, if you would prefer to avoid medications you can always focus on these things, which should also help decrease the undesirable behaviors.