Nurturing Young Children's Emotional Development: Strategies for Managing Aggressive Behaviors

    Strategies for Managing Aggressive Behaviors 

                              in Preschoolers 


As parents or caregivers, it can be distressing when our young children show aggressive behaviors like hitting, pushing, biting, or yelling. These behaviors often become more pronounced at the start of the school year, a time when there is increased chaos, overwhelm, and unknowns for many kids. However, it's important to understand that these actions are not your young child just being "mean" but can be a way for them to communicate their needs when they do not have the skills or vocabulary to communicate them. In this post, we'll explore strategies and tools you can use to address these behaviors with patience and empathy.



Why is My Child Showing Aggressive Behaviors?

Young children are often aware that hitting, biting, or yelling is not acceptable behavior, but they may lack the impulse control and communication tools to express their needs differently and effectively. Developing these skills takes time, practice, and patience.

Let's dive into some effective strategies and tools to help young children navigate and eventually overcome these challenging behaviors.

1. Respond Calmly 

When you witness your child showing aggressive behavior, it's important to avoid a strong and big reaction, like " NO! STOP!" Instead, step in to stop the physical behavior, which may involve physically separating the children if necessary. Use a calm but firm tone to convey, "It is not OK to hit/bite." At this moment, your role is not to teach but to guide and provide assistance in the situation.

2. Address the Underlying Issue

Take a moment to think about what might have triggered the aggressive behavior. Does your child need help calming their mind or body down? Maybe the aggressive behavior was a physical response to stress or overwhelm. If you think this could be the case (it very much often is in young children) model taking a deep breath or guide them to a different area where they can take a break. Provide a stuffy to cuddle, a fidget, or offer a hug. Remember that now is not the time for lessons; it's a time for support and assistance and help them realize that you are working on calming their mind and body. 

3. Help with Problem-Solving

Sometimes, aggressive behaviors come from situations where children struggle to find solutions to their problems with others or problems that they are having completing a task on their own. For instance, they might be with a friend, and both want the same toy. Or they might not be able to finish the puzzle they have tried hard to complete. This is an opportunity to guide them through the interaction. Offer suggestions like trading or setting a timer to help them work through the situation with a friend. Or guide them through taking a break from their puzzle or stopping and thinking of other ways to move their pieces. 

4. Assist with Transitions

Transitions can be challenging for young children, and it's normal for them to resist stopping an activity or changing tasks. This can happen at school or at home. Children may show aggressive behaviors when they are upset about these transitions. You can stop the aggressive behavior and allow them to express themselves and their feelings and acknowledge them- even if they can't have more playtime right then. Guide them through the transition with empathy and understanding while also going through with what needs to be done.

5. Prioritize Safety

In some cases, during an aggressive episode, it's needed to only prioritize safety above all else. If the situation becomes too aggressive or even violent, step in to stop the aggressive behavior and ensure everyone's safety. Moving away from the situation may also be necessary.

6. Reflect and Teach Later

Once the situation has calmed down and the child is more receptive, take the time to discuss what happened. Explain what behavior was acceptable and what wasn't. This is also an opportunity to introduce tools and strategies for better communication and problem-solving. This can happen later in the day and also throughout many days for children to be able to begin to process, learn, and recall these tools.

7. Use Tools for Teaching

Teaching calming strategies, how to talk about feelings, and problem-solving skills are very important life skills for children. These ideas, strategies, and tools can be incorporated into various moments throughout their day and week. While they won't eliminate aggressive behaviors entirely, they will provide children with the tools they need to cope with their emotions and communicate effectively.

This can be setting up a calming area with tools and visuals to show calming strategies. This can be playing games to work on social skills and problem-solving. This can be role-playing play situations, like trading or sharing with each other. This can be talking about feelings and how our bodies and our minds react to them. It is also a great idea to model your own feelings and calming and problem-solving strategies for children to see and learn from. 

In my shop, we have some printable activities and social skills stories that address these strategies and tools, that may be helpful!


Calming Corner: This set has visuals, signs, and activities to promote learning about how to calm your mind and body and knowing about your feelings. It is perfect for setting up in a quiet spot at home or in a classroom. It could also all go on in a basket if space is an issue. Click on the picture to see the listing.




Social Skills Stories are also great teaching tools, using simple phrases sentences, and pictures to teach new concepts, social skills, and life skills. They can be a great resource to teach something and to also reread time and again for children to process different situations. Here are a few in my shop about aggressive behaviors and feelings. Click the picture to see more. 




Role Playing and Problem Solving Practice can be done with this activity pack where children play games, and hear scenarios and pick a strategy to try to solve the problem. 




Dealing with young children's aggressive behaviors can be challenging, but it's important to approach these situations with patience, empathy, and a focus on teaching valuable life skills. By using these strategies, tools, and activities you can help your child develop better impulse control, communication skills, and the ability to try to manage their emotions; important skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.


Thanks for reading!  


                                            - Amanda



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