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  • Writer's pictureDr. Edan M. Alcalay

How to respond to children's aggression?

Aggressive acts, such as punching a parent, often emerge when toddlers are overwhelmed by a distressing situation or by difficult feelings like anger or jealousy.

Observe and Learn

Thinking through the following questions can help you see patterns and figure out what the underlying reason for your child’s behavior might be. You can use this information to decide the best way to respond.

-What is going on in your child’s world?

-Where is the behavior happening? Home?

Childcare? Shopping mall? Grandma’s apartment? Or is it happening in all/most of the settings your child is in?

-If it is only happening in one setting, could there be something about that environment (i.e., too crowded, bright, overwhelming, etc.) that is triggering the behavior?

-Is the behavior directed toward one specific person or a small group of people? Or is the behavior directed, at times, to anyone in the child’s circle?

When does the behavior usually happen? For example, right before nap time, when your child is tired? At times of transition, such as going from one activity to another? These kinds of stressors are common triggers for aggressive behavior.

-What happened right before your child’s challenging behavior? For example, had you just announced it was time to stop playing and get in the car? Had another child just taken a toy out of his hands?

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