Positive Parenting: Curbing aggression

LANSING, MI (WILX) -- Researchers say teens who are persistently aggressive or defiant show signs of abnormally aggressive behavior years earlier when they're toddlers.

Photo courtesy: MGN

Is this just pretend swordplay in the park or a stick fight about to get out of hand? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Aggression might also look different when kids are in their terrible twos and younger.

Clinical psychologist Tamara Del Vecchio and her colleagues studied 477 children from six t0 24 months of age. They asked parents how often their children pulled other's hair, kicked, hit, bit others, or hurt animals.

Almost all of the children, 94%, behaved in at least one of these ways once a week. Most often, hitting. She says parents of very young children should not be alarmed but should be aware.

"Because we don't have a great handle on who of those kids are going to be problematic later, I think it's really important we address the problem across the board," Vecchio said.

Experts suggest parents calmly address the aggressive behavior first with a reprimand.

"Pulling the cat's tail, hitting your sister, biting, any of those behaviors, we want to come in very early, firmly, with no," Vecchio said.

If that doesn't work, try a time out, redirect the child, or separate the child from the activity for one or two minutes. Remind them how they should behave with phrases like "be gentle," or "be nice."

Your initial response to aggressive behavior may be to show anger or threaten the child, but researchers say that response to negative behaviors is less likely to work.

Clinical psychologists say children who act aggressively may need help managing their strong emotions.

In some cases kids and their parents may need additional guidance from a mental health professional.

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