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Understanding & Nurturing Your Child's Aggression

toddler crying trying to hold onto a shopping cart

Have you ever been surprised when your little one suddenly bites or hits someone? It's not

uncommon for parents to face these unexpected moments of aggression in their children. Imagine the first time your sweet toddler pulls another child's hair—it can be both shocking and confusing. But here's the thing: you're not alone.


Let's talk about the times your child has lashed out or been on the receiving end of aggression from others. These situations are part of the parenting journey, and many moms and dads find themselves in similar predicaments.


In this exploration of childhood aggression, we'll dig into why these behaviors happen and, most importantly, how parents can handle them. So, let's simplify this experience and understand how to manage those biting, hitting, and hair-pulling incidents that can catch us off guard. Read on to learn more.

Understanding Children's Natural Need for Connection & Safety

Every child craves closeness and safety. Picture those happy moments when your child is playing, laughing, and feeling supported – it's like having a superhero shield against aggression. However, if that connection is missing, especially when they feel a bit lost, it can lead to actions like biting or hitting.


Consider a child playing with friends, feeling connected and safe. Now, think of a scenario, a disagreement perhaps, causing that safe feeling to vanish. In such moments, the child might not know how to express, "Hey, I feel upset," so they might resort to actions like biting or hitting to restore that sense of safety.

How Feeling Disconnected Leads to Aggression?

Emotions in a child's world are like swift storms.  When a child goes through the day, dealing with all sorts of stuff. Imagine a little girl getting ready for the day, excited to play with her toys. Suddenly, her daddy rushes her to get dressed, and she feels upset because she wants to play. As she notices her brother happily playing with a toy, her emotions may escalate, leading to a sense of disconnection and the internal thought, "Daddy doesn't understand. I just want to play like my brother. I feel upset." In this emotional turmoil, her aggression might manifest as a plea for understanding: "Help! I feel all mixed up inside."

Inner Thoughts of a Child in an Emotional Crisis

Now, let's peek into a child's thoughts when things get really tough. For instance, in the mind of a girl facing a tough moment, upset that daddy rushed her to get dressed and longing to play. Now as she arrives at school, she sees another happy friend, thinking, "Why does everyone else get to be happy? I feel lost." Despite the presence of a loving family, these feelings can trigger lashing out as a way of expressing, "Why can't I be happy like my friend and my brother? I need help understanding my feelings."


This is due to the child experiencing frustration from the perceived inability to achieve happiness, leading to the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. This influences mood and social perception. The resulting emotional distress prompts outward expressions, such as lashing out, serving as a coping mechanism to communicate their internal struggle with fear and loneliness.

The Role of Safety in Expression

Conversely, kids feel safe when they know someone loves and cares about them. It's like having a special person there to support them, making them feel comfortable. Think about a little one carrying a teddy bear around the playground. Every now and then, they look back and see Mom or Dad ready to help if they need it. Feeling safe with a grown-up nearby gives them the confidence to explore and handle small challenges.

The Importance of a Secure Bond in Preventing Aggression

A strong bond acts as a shield, protecting kids from going off track due to bad feelings. Having someone reliable for love and support is like having a trusty umbrella in a storm—keeping them safe from tough emotions.


For instance, after a day of fun and cuddling, a child happily goes to bed feeling safe and loved. This special connection helps them handle emotions without being mean or aggressive. It's like having a magic shield that prevents them from acting out when upset or mad.

How Safety Allows Children to Express Emotions Without Harm

When a child feels upset or mad, feeling emotionally safe helps them talk about it without getting aggressive. Emotional safety is like having a heart-to-heart conversation with a warm, understanding parent, where children can openly share their feelings without resorting to hitting or biting.


When a child encounters a challenge, they seek solace from their parents. In this secure space, the parent attentively listens, provides a comforting embrace, and ensures a nurturing environment for the child to express their emotions. This emotional sanctuary acts as a resilient foundation, allowing children to manage their feelings adeptly and reducing the inclination to aggressive behaviours.

mom and girl hugging with big smiles

Factors Contributing to Child’s Emotional Disconnection

Understanding why children feel disconnected is essential. Parents and caregivers play a big part in this. Let's look at two key things:

1.     Feeling Mixed-Up in Daily Stuff

Even though kids are small, they have big feelings. When things like a rushed morning or feeling ignored happen, they might think, “My parents don't like me!" This can make them feel scared and tense, causing emotional disconnection.

2.     Past Scary Experiences Stick Around

If a child has been through tough stuff like a difficult birth or seeing family arguments, those memories stay. These past experiences create a sense of fear and desperation, leading to emotional disconnection, even if the family is usually loving. Parents need to understand and help their children feel secure and connected.

Role of Parents and Caregivers

In parenting, the quality of connection with children holds immense significance. A child feeling disconnected may turn to aggression to express inner turmoil. It's not about being a bad parent; it's recognizing that, despite a loving family, children can feel isolated. Addressing these fears involves caregivers providing a supportive and understanding environment.

Parental Approach to Aggression

Dealing with your child's aggressive behavior requires a thoughtful and supportive approach. When your child becomes too rough, responding with kindness is crucial. In scenarios where they feel frustrated and struggle to express their emotions, stepping in calmly to comfort them not only stops negative behavior but also nurtures a sense of safety.


Listening serves as a powerful healing tool, especially when children find it challenging to articulate their feelings. Patience and understanding during these moments provide an outlet for them to release intense emotions, effectively preventing potential aggressive actions like hitting or biting.


Equally important is creating a safe environment for your child to express their feelings. Designating a specific space at home where all emotions are welcome allows your child to freely communicate when feeling overwhelmed or upset. This comprehensive approach empowers parents to navigate their child's challenging moments with empathy and understanding.

mom and child facing each other laying on a bed sharing connection

Practical Steps for Parents

Now that we've explored the overarching approach of the Parental Approach to Aggression, let's delve into actionable steps that you can implement in real-time scenarios. These practical steps serve as a hands-on guide, offering specific actions to handle challenging moments with your child.

1. Self-awareness

Reflecting on personal feelings about the child's aggression:

When your child displays aggression, it's normal for parents or caregivers to feel a blend of emotions—frustration, worry, or even guilt. Recognizing and acknowledging these feelings is vital for a considerate response. Aggressive behavior can trigger emotions such as fear, anger, and guilt, affecting the warmth you convey to your child. This may inadvertently lead to reactions that may intensify your child's fear.

Seeking a listening partner for support without judgment:

Opening up to a trusted listening partner—a friend, family member, or your partner—can offer vital support and prepare you to assist your child effectively. Discussing your feelings without judgment is a powerful step in addressing both your concerns and your child's behavior.

2. Observation

Identifying conditions triggering the child's fears:

Observe when your child tends to become aggressive. Is it after a particular event, during specific activities, or in certain environments? Recognizing triggers can help you anticipate and address these situations.

Mental preparation for potential aggressive behavior:

Be mentally prepared for possible outbursts. If you know that certain situations tend to lead to aggression, having a proactive mindset can help you respond calmly and prevent escalation.

3. Friendly Patrol

Staying close to intervene quickly and calmly:

Keep a watchful eye on your child, especially in situations where aggression might occur. Being physically close allows you to step in swiftly to prevent harm. For example, if your child tends to become aggressive during playdates, stay nearby to offer guidance.


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