A Place of Our Own
About the Series Feedback Glossary Search Go Español
Home Topics Activities Resources Episode Guide Active Learning
Managing Aggressive Behavior

Dear Debi,
I care for a 3-year-old girl who acts out with other children when she wants what they are playing with. What can I do to help her?
Audrey, Los Angeles, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Use positive discipline to manage aggressive behavior.
  • Create, clearly explain, and consistently enforce simple rules that prohibit hurtful behavior.
  • Help children express their feelings in a variety of acceptable ways, such as with words, art or even play.
  • Make it a point to praise acceptable behavior.
Expert Advice
Ann Corwin, Ph. D
Ann Corwin, Ph. D
Parenting Consultant
Discipline is a way of teaching. When you use positive discipline, for example, you will stop a negative behavior and teach the child what you’d like him to do. Punishing the child will stop the negative behavior, but it will not teach him the right thing to do.

The child will continue misbehaving because he hasn’t been presented with another option. That’s why positive discipline is so affective.

That is why you need to make a point of praising acceptable behavior, especially if the children are playing nicely and quietly. Most providers prefer not to interrupt them at that stage, but it comes off as if you were ignoring them. If you ignore someone who’s doing what you want them to do, they’ll immediately change their behavior.

So when you praise the children, don’t be so dramatic, because it can be disruptive. Just move your body closer to theirs and make eye contact; you’ll see that nice quiet behavior will happen more often.
Child Care Provider Comments
Family child care provider for 4 years
Everyone needs to feel safe in my home. If a child is kicking and hitting we separate him from the rest of the group, not only to stop him from what he is doing, but also to make the other kids and him feel safe.

We talk to the child. “You were hitting Johnny,” we say, “is there anything you want to talk about?” We always bring it back to language, to the level of words, because it helps them understand that there are other ways to communicate. And then we explain that it hurts when they hit other children, and that everybody who comes to our child care, needs to feel safe.
Family child care provider for 4 years
Sometimes when kids get frustrated and don’t know how to express themselves they will bang their head against the wall or hit someone else. It’s pretty common. I’ve had kids fighting over a toy, saying things like, “Take that, I want the toy!” So I sit down with them and say, “Why did you do that?” And then I bring another toy and see if they want to play with it.

Usually, if you bring a second toy you are introducing the idea of sharing, because a lot of times the child who had the toy in the first place will be interested in the new one.
Family child care provider for 14 years
We always sit down with the children and try to talk it over, and use language as a tool of communication. We sit with the aggressor and encourage him not to apologize, but to say: “Excuse me for hitting you, you are my friend and friends take care of each other”. We resolve the conflict by putting it in human terms.

The main solution is to give the children a safe environment to express their feelings and know that they won’t be injured. When a child seems to express more negative behaviors toward their peers, the parents are informed and we talk about enforcing rules and behaviors in the child care and at home.

Sensory Box Featured Activity:
Sensory Box
A Space for Privacy Featured Video:
A Space for Privacy
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
View Index
Learn More
View All Topics
Message Boards
Related Episodes
Superhero Play
Getting Kids to Share
Positive Discipline
Managing Disruptive Behavior
Agreeing on Behavior Management
Managing Severely Challenging Behavior
Rough & Tumble Play
California Child Care Health Program and the Child Care Healthline
Parenting Problems
Center On The Social And Emotional Foundations For Early Learning
Downloads (Get Reader)
Tips on How to Make Every Child Feel Valued pdf
© 2007 Community Television of Southern California. All rights reserved.