Brentwood StrongStart News

Aggression in Young Children

Picture of Adelina Gotera
Aggression in Young Children
by Adelina Gotera - Monday, 3 September 2012, 6:49 PM
Reading an article entitled, Early learning prevents youth violence," written by R. Tremblay, J. Gervals and A. Petitclerc, I thought of sharing some facts with you regarding aggression in young children.

a. Tantrums are experienced by 85-90% of all children. They are most common between the ages of 18 months to 3 years.

b. 80% of children aged 30 months will take a desired object by force from another.

c. 25% of children aged 17-30 months bite other children often or on occasion.

d. 70% of children aged 2 and 3 years hit other children at times.

e. Aggression in very young children is not a sign of wickedness, nor is it proof of poor parenting. Young children simply use aggression to get what they want.

Part of the reason young children are naturally aggressive at times is likely that human beings are programmed as species to make certain needs are met. Young children's brains are also not fully developed. In fact the frontal cortex, which helps control human emotions and impulses, is not fully developed until the child is about 4 years old. At this age and onward, the tendency to use aggression starts to decrease in children.

Promoting expressive language among young children can help them to control their aggressive impulses. It stands to reason that children with limited language are more likely to use physical actions to get what they want or need. The authors recommend that parents should encourage children to share, help others, wait one's turn and negotiate solutions in conflict with peers. Labeling feelings helps children too. When your child is angry or sad, give it a name for them. Let them know it is okay to stomp their feet and tell you how they feel. Also point out the effect of their actions on others feelings. "Kathy looks sad that you took the toy away. We need to give it back and ask for a turn when she's done." Tremblay et al. also state the importance of being good role models to show children how to meet their needs pro-socially. Remember that children are keen observers.

While aggression in young children may be normal, it is still important that adults should not ignore aggressive acts. Likewise, adults should not over-react by shaming or belittling children or being extremely punitive. Adults should be consistent in teaching children better ways to get their needs met.