Dealing With Acts of Aggression from Your Child

Written by: Allison Bates, M.S.
Dealing With Acts of Aggression from Your Child

One issue I have a lot of my child clients working on is their anger (including tantrums). Some tantrums or outbursts are normal for children under the age of 5, while they are making sense of boundaries and the world around them.

Tantrums or acts of aggression become problematic when:

  • They are a danger to self or others.
  • It is impeding the child’s participation in school.
  • It is impacting their social skills.
  • You notice that their self-esteem is being altered.

As caregivers, it often genuinely hurts us when our child is upset, and our instinct is to do or give them whatever they want to help them calm down. Unfortunately, this often enforces to the child that throwing the tantrum or getting angry will get them what they want, thus causing the problems to happen more often and severe.

I have found a great deal of success in utilizing incentive programs (stickers, marbles in a jar, etc) for the child to earn when they are doing a favorable behavior. Children are less likely to get frustrated when they are in a consistent, caring environment.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try or consistent we are, a child still might struggle with anger or tantrums. Here are some strategies that could be helpful:

  • Allow them to express whatever is upsetting them (letting them draw the anger or punch a pillow is often beneficial).
  • Give them space to calm down. We often want to help them calm down immediately, but most people in general need a little breathing room when upset.
  • Do not be afraid to discuss times you were angry and how you handled it. As anger is an undesirable emotion, we often try to push it down and not see it. This leaves the child with no clear model of what anger should look like.

Website Resources


  • The Explosive Child By Dr. Ross Greene
  • The Volcano in my Tummy
  • Angry Octopus