Behavior Modification for Childhood Aggression

A child exhibiting aggression will present some real and difficult behavioral challenges for parents and caregivers. As unpleasant as these behaviors might be, think about helping your child make more positive behavior choices. Behavior modification can be instrumental for facilitating change and helping a child feel happier and more cooperative.

Understanding Agitation

Before you can employ behavioral modification techniques, understand how agitation progresses to the point of aggression. When your child feels some type of threat or if he has a perceived need or want thwarted, anxiety will ensue, according to the University of Southern Maine Child Welfare Training Institute. He may begin fidgeting or pacing in response to the anxiety. If anxiety progresses, it turns into defensive behavior, designed to protect him from the perceived crisis. At this point, he’s probably difficult to reach verbally and he may be talking loudly or quickly. Defensiveness quickly moves into aggression because the youngster has trouble containing the energy. He may not succeed in controlling impulses, and he might throw items, attack others verbally and protect himself if others get too close.

Stopping the Progression

If you can stop the progression from agitation to aggression, you can help your child avoid making behavioral mistakes. Ask questions about feelings and thoughts and listen carefully to what your child tells you. Paraphrase expressions of feelings and give your child some positive options for dealing with his anxiety. Stay calm, even if your child escalates his behavior from anxiety to defensiveness.

Learning from Mistakes

If your child escalates behavior to the aggressive stage, describe the behavior you see and make suggestions about what your child could do to deescalate the situation and make more positive choices. You probably won’t succeed in avoiding every aggressive episode, but you can turn them into teachable moments so your youngster can learn from mistakes. Logical or natural consequences tend to teach the most effective lessons to kids because they fit the misbehavior, according to the University of Michigan Health System 1.

Firm Limits

Institute and maintain firm limits about aggressive behavior to teach your child that you will not tolerate him hurting other people, either physically or verbally, advises the EarlyChildhood News website 2. With consistent limits, your child should learn that he cannot engage in this behavior. If your child does not respond positively to your consistent limits and continues to exhibit aggression, seek professional intervention for your child’s behavior.