5 Strategies for Managing Aggression in Children

One of the strategies for managing aggression in children is to teach them breathing exercises. Here are a few more strategies to apply.
5 Strategies for Managing Aggression in Children

Last update: 16 June, 2022

Kicking, insulting, biting, shouting, or throwing toys are some of the many ways in which aggressiveness manifests itself in children. This situation is frequent and requires a double approach: Understanding what’s happening to the child and helping them to identify and handle their emotions in a healthy way. We know that, in practice, managing aggression in children is a challenge. That’s why we’re going to share with you some useful strategies for those moments of tension. Keep reading!

What’s the reason behind children’s aggressiveness?

For this type of question, we’ll never find a single answer. Rather, the appropriate thing to do is to try to understand the situation in all its complexity and in the light of that particular child. That is, taking into account their personality, context, and history. In addition, it’s essential to avoid categorizing the child, making analyses or diagnoses lightly, or placing harmful labels on the child.

Another important aspect to consider is that the brain isn’t yet fully mature in infancy and acquires new skills progressively.

To put it simply, in the beginning, children are “pure emotion”, as their behavior is dominated by the lower brain. With time, the higher brain consolidates, and from that moment on, kids become capable of integrating experiences and giving more appropriate responses to stimuli.

Meanwhile, it’s illogical to expect a child to react like an adult, and we must understand the importance of our accompaniment in the development of their skills.

A child who's frustrated with his school work.
Anger is a valid emotion and children need to experience it from an early age in order to be able to manage it healthily. On the contrary, aggressiveness is one of the consequences of difficulties in managing emotions properly.

5 strategies for managing aggression in children

Beyond the parenting techniques you decide to implement with your children, the management of emotions is a key chapter and a fundamental tool for their lives.

If we accompany children so that they’re able to understand what happens to them, why it happens to them, and what they can do to change that situation, they’ll achieve the emotional well-being we want them to reach.

Find out which are the strategies to manage aggressiveness in children below.

1. Employ the traffic light technique

Although it has variations, the traffic light technique is a very useful tool to guide children’s behavior and help them learn from their actions.

Draw and paint a large traffic light together, so you can hang it on a wall. Once it’s ready, ask your child to point out the situations that annoy, frustrate, and anger them. They can talk about them or they can write them down on paper and then stick them next to the red color.

Next, ask them to describe the situations that make them uncomfortable or upset them. Repeat the previous step, but this time place the words in the yellow area.

Finally, ask them which are those situations that make them happy, that please them, and that make them feel good. In this case, place them in the green area.

Once all this is done, help your child to think about how difficult situations could be solved and what the best behaviors to achieve it would be, without hurting anyone.

2. Teach them to relax and breathe

Give your child some instructions for taking in air and blowing up like a balloon. Then deflate it and blow it up again. You can also instruct them to clench their fists and make a lot of force on them, and then gradually loosen them until their hands feel as light as paper.

In both ways, you’ll help them to breathe and relax and thus contribute to managing aggression in children.

3. Use music as a means of distraction during a conflict

In this way, you can help regulate emotions. However, you need to then reflect on what happened and try to identify what led them to act in that way. This will facilitate the process of understanding the feelings.

4. Suggest some artistic activities

One of the slogans that are also used to work on aggressiveness is to draw emotions. Thus, when someone looks angry, they may have their hair standing on end, their teeth clenched, and their face all red.

This is also a way of defusing the conflict and helping the children to reflect on how they see themselves (and what others see) in those moments of tension. Of course, it’s important to accompany them during situation analysis and learning.

5. Promote physical exercise

Physical activity is a way to release energy and tension, to produce the hormones of happiness, and to achieve greater well-being.

Boys playing soccer.
Sports are an activity that offers multiple benefits for physical and emotional health. In addition, they’re a way to channel energy and relax the body and mind from the stresses of the day.

Some additional recommendations for managing aggression in children

Another way to help children talk about their emotions is to socialize and share ours. They can identify with them and be motivated to ask us more questions that they can use as an experience. In addition, learning to put a name on the way we feel also helps us to relax.

At the same time, we shouldn’t wait for aggression to happen: We must intervene before it does. That is, if we can anticipate a conflict, it’s important to do so.

Finally, it’s essential for adults to be good role models. We’re the main source of learning for children, and if they see us overwhelmed, they’ll think that this is the right way to act. Let’s try to remain calm in adverse situations and avoid acting aggressively, either by shouting or other types of violence.

Anger isn’t the same as aggressiveness

Anger is part of our emotional range and we must allow it to emerge. In fact, it’s necessary for children to have varied experiences to learn to recognize what they like, what they don’t like, how they feel, and at what moments they feel good or bad.

However, it’s important to differentiate anger from aggression and violence. The latter should be understood as a difficulty in managing emotions and should be redirected. Early intervention is necessary to provide children with the necessary resources so that they can find alternative solutions to their problems.

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  • Parra, M. D. P. G. (2009). Intervención musicoterapéutica para promover la prosocialidad y reducir el riesgo de agresividad en niños de básica primaria y preescolar en Bogotá, Colombia. International Journal of psychological research2(2), 128-136.
  • Noroño Morales, N. V., Cruz Segundo, R., Cadalso Sorroche, R., & Fernández Benítez, O. (2002). Influencia del medio familiar en niños con conductas agresivas. Revista cubana de Pediatria74(2), 138-144.