How to Teach Aggressive Children Self-Control

By Rachel B. Anderson
All children are prone to aggressive behaviors, but some develop more self-control than others.
All children are prone to aggressive behaviors, but some develop more self-control than others.

Some kids can't seem to contain the monster. It creeps up inside them when their favorite toy doesn't work right, when the family dog gets too loud or because "Timmy pushed me." If you're dealing with an overly aggressive child, your frustration is probably building, but don't give up just yet. Helping an aggressive child develop self-control to avoid angry outbursts can be done with a few proactive measures, even in seemingly hopeless cases.

Keep track of what triggers aggressive behavior in your child. Most children act out in chaotic environments and unstructured situations. Ask your son what causes him to get frustrated and lose control. Consider how you can provide additional support or stability, as you know your child best.

Create a peaceful home environment. Ensure items in children's areas and in kids' bedrooms are organized in safe, welcoming spaces. Display cheerful wall art, family photos and tasteful decorations. Involve your child in creating a fun play area and a place to relax and think.

Set clear, easy-to-follow play rules with your daughter. Talk to her about how to handle disagreements with other children, and how to express her feelings using words and not hands. Praise her for even the smallest displays of self-control, such as waiting patiently for a turn to use a toy.

Model self-control in your adult life. Children study adult actions and reactions, and one day will become a lot like the parental figures in their lives. Reacting calmly and avoiding your own explosive outbursts is the best way to teach your son how to cope with his own "end of the world" conflicts.

Teach your daughter to belly breathe to calm down, something WebMD endorses in a section on helping youngsters cope. A few structured minutes alone may be all she needs. Show her how to take slow, deep breaths from her stomach to feel better and gain control. When both of you are in control, talk about what happened, addressing any misbehaviors in a firm but loving way.

Offer choices to defuse situations. For example, if your son is angry about having to take a bath, give him the option of either helping you pour foaming bubbles into the water or picking out two bath toys from a bucket. By involving him in making decisions related to the bath, you are holding your ground but also allowing him to do something he prefers.

Reflect on your child's progress in a fun way. You could have a weekly tea party with your daughter to talk about the stressful situations she encountered during the week, discussing the level of control she demonstrated and why. This works especially well with older children who are able to process things on a more grown-up level. Consider rewarding your daughter with a mommy-and-me outing when you see a lessening of aggressive behavior. A tree-house talk or nature walk could be an exciting way to open up a conversation with a boy.

Tip

Keep a positive and hopeful outlook as you parent an overly aggressive child. Encouragement, confidence and support is what your child needs most.

Warning

Consult with a doctor or family counselor if you feel your child has adopted unusually aggressive behaviors or said things that cause you to worry about safety issues.

About the Author

Rachel Anderson has published since 2005 in "The Independent Florida Alligator," "The Gainesville Sun" and "The New York Times." She has taught English, writing and journalism in the Bronx, Manhattan and Dubai. She is a former executive editor of "Orange and Blue Magazine" with a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a Master of Education from Pace University.