Junior’s getting aggressive ― what should I do?

Is your child’s aggressive behaviour with playmates, siblings and you really just a phase? We talk to a psychologist…

Just like adults, kids have bad days, so they act up and express their temper. But could this anger become a habit and become something worse? We talked to psychologist Daniel Koh of Insights Mind Centre, about what to do when your child is frequently towards others, and towards you…

Some young children seem to hit each other or their parents — we’ve been told it’s a phase or because they don’t know how to communicate.

A child who has poor communication or social skills may tend to be more physical when expressing themselves. Also, if they have poor impulse control, are feeling sensitive or under some emotional distress, or impatient — they can also get more physical and aggressive.

Plus, we know that children learn to behave from watching adults. How do you yourself behave under stress? Warning signs you may want to pay attention to: If your child is impulsive, always impatient, pushing boundaries, defiant — with angry outbursts, demonstrates mood swings or very physical behaviour, is unwilling to communicate and compromise, or keeps challenging others.

When a child shows such behaviour, it is not so much about just talking but rather, who is willing to engage the child in safe and stress-free communication.

Remember ― it is not about fault-finding or blame, rather, it’s about you and your child coming together to understand each other, the situation and how to solve it. Avoid reinforcing physical aggression like punishment or scolding.

Be specific as you explain why their aggressive behavior is not what you want.

Can you suggest strategies for talking about aggressive behaviour to a 5-year-old and a 12-year-old?

For the 5-year-old: Be specific (one instruction in one sentence to aid concentration and decrease misunderstandings) as you explain why their aggressive behaviour is not what you want. Make sure you explain thoroughly if the child looks confused; you may want to ask him to repeat what you say, to see if he understands you.

For the 12-year-old: When you talk to them, put your points in as positive a light as you can. So, instead of saying “Your room is dirty! I want you to clean it!” (negative and commanding and may end with a child sulking or yelling), try, “I know that you can clean your room and it will help you sleep better…” — something more positive and the child sees a good reason for doing so.

Also be realistic and be aware of expectations. Reinforce and praise positive behaviour as your child will like to feel his effort is acknowledged.

Click for more tips on dealing with a belligerent child…