How to Curb Aggressive Behavior in 4 & 5 Year Olds

by Amy Morin, Demand Media Google
    "Mom, these dolls won't listen to me!"

    "Mom, these dolls won't listen to me!"

    Showing some healthy aggression might fly during your child's tae kwon do or karate class, but outside of this kind of supervised environment, you'll want to curb aggressive behavior. As a 4- or 5-year-old child grows more independent, he attempts more tasks on his own, which sometimes leads to frustration and anger because let's face it, even though your little one is perfect in your eyes, he's not always going to catch on to things the first time around. When a 4 or 5 year old becomes angry or frustrated, throwing toys, purposely breaking things, or even hitting people aren't unusual responses. But your response to this aggressive behavior makes a big difference in the likelihood of repeat performances.

    Teach Feeling Words

    Telling kids to use their words is only effective when they know what words are appropriate to use. Otherwise, you may hear words like "stupid head" rather than "I'm really angry." Teach kids simple "feeling" words such as happy, sad, angry and scared. Ask your child each day, "How are you feeling today?" and discuss the types of things that influence feelings. Read books about "feeling" words -- and dance around house, singing about how you feel.

    Teach Empathy

    Preschoolers weren't born knowing how to share or how to politely interact with others. Instead, they often feel justified in grabbing, screaming or kicking. Since 4- and 5-year-old kids tend to think the world revolves around them, it's important to teach empathy. When reading a book or watching a TV show, pause and ask, "How do you think this character feels right now?" This can help your preschooler learn that other people have feelings, too -- and that pushing a friend is likely to hurt the friend's feelings.

    Establish Clear Rules

    Establish clear rules for your home and discuss how different adults may have slightly different rules. When your 4 or 5 year old says, "But Grandma let's me do it," say, "Mom's rule is that we use our hands to play nicely and not to hurt people." Also, explain how rules are different in different settings. Before getting out of the car at the playground explain, "At the playground we use our hands for climbing," and when you go to the store say, "At the grocery store, we use our hands for helping to put food in the cart -- and not for climbing."

    Provide Limits and Consequences

    Whether you're dealing with food fights or flying toys, make it clear to your child that aggressive behavior is unacceptable. If he's throwing his blocks, take the blocks away from him and redirect him to a new activity. If he becomes aggressive toward someone else, remove him from the situation. Say, "Hands are not for hitting." Take him to an area away from other activity and give him an opportunity to calm down. Engage him in a new activity, such as coloring, and remind him, "Hands are for making pretty pictures."

    About the Author

    Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.

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    • Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images