Ask Teacher Lisa: Why Is My Child Being Aggressive?

Dear Teacher Lisa,

Why Is My Child Being Aggressive?

Dear Why Is My Child Being Aggressive?

There are many reasons a child may resort to aggression…

Many 2-3 year olds are learning to connect for the first time and might hit to try to show they are interested in playing with another child and want in on the action but don’t know what to say or do to be included. Be curious about their intentions. Once they are in play, and the first bump in the road comes when the kids have different ideas or want the same item, they may not have the words for this scenario either, so again they may be aggressive. Our job is to be close by to anticipate these needs, help them find their entry point and role in the game, and model language they can use for this and for those bumps in the road. Ask all parties what their ideas are. 

3-4 year old children might be hitting or being aggressive in protection of their space or possessions. Again, we can be curious and model for them the language and tone they can use to express their needs. Let’s try to anticipate these scenarios and be realistic about how much stuff we can save or set up strategies in advance–pick one that is your favorite, put a sign on something if you’ll be right back, use a clipboard for turns, wonder with the child in advance about what we could do if someone else wants to use stuff or join us, think about our school/home agreements of having many/none or leaving something and a friend taking a turn before it comes back to us, practice how they can get help in a stressful scenario by yelling “Heeeelp!” and an adult will come running, read books or do role play around friendship, sharing and hitting and discuss it… Make an emergency plan with your child of what they can do when they are stressed–fidget to squeeze, chewy necklace, quiet regulatory place like Cozy Cottage, sensory activity, snack/ice, etc.

4-5 year old children may hit a third party to connect in a quick way with a friend or to protect a connection they have going already. Or they may have other feelings of disappointment, irritation or frustration bubbling up. Let’s help them find other outlets.

Other kids may be at the end of their rope or anxious because of a new baby at home, a parent out of town, or other things on their mind. Again, their fuse may be a little shorter. Make time to connect with them when they are not triggered and they will be better able to receive your support in those difficult moments. 

Lastly, aggression can be physical play that has gotten out of hand or needs clearer parameters set or individualized parameters for each participant. Call a timeout. Make firm agreements and write them down or recap regularly. 

Hope this article helps. Have a good weekend!

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