My Preschooler Is Violent!

Is your preschooler giving new meaning to the term “terrible twos?” Are tantrums becoming a daily nightmare? Is she punching her siblings? Here’s how to know if your child’s behavior is normal or out of control.

Many children act out with angry, screaming tantrums. They get frustrated, they get tired and they get cranky. When they’re little, they haven’t yet learned to express their frustration the right way. That’s why they act out.

It’s usually smart to curb tantrums and other angry behavior when it starts. The usual approach is a three-step one:

  • Stay calm.
  • Don’t give in to temper tantrums.
  • Praise your child for good behavior.

Don’t Encourage Bad Behavior

If you give in to temper tantrums, throwing, hitting and other aggressive behavior, you will just encourage the behavior. Your child will continue acting up because it gets him what he wants.

If your child is showing normal frustration and tantrums, you need to be patient and wait for her to grow out of it.

Are You a Good Role Model?

Your child learns most of her behavior by watching you. If you’re allowing physical abuse or violence of any kind in your home, your child will model that behavior.

The first step is to reduce the stress and anger levels in your home.

The second is to reduce your children’s exposure to violence. Scary, violent movies or video games should be left to the adults in the family.

Why Is Your Child Violent?

Adopting a zero tolerance policy to abuse lets your child know he can’t get away with angry, out-of-control behavior.

Certain things make it more likely that a child will grow up to be violent. They include:

  • History of aggressive behavior.
  • Being the victim of physical or sexual abuse.
  • Exposure to violence at home.
  • Being the victim of bullying.
  • Genetic (family heredity) factors.
  • Exposure to violence in media or the community.
  • Drug or alcohol use.
  • Guns in the home.
  • Stressful family situations including poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting and unemployment.
  • Traumatic brain injury.

What’s Normal and What Isn’t?

Most children learn to stop their aggressive, angry behavior. If you child’s behavior persists past a certain age, you might need to take a more serious approach.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “By the time a child is old enough to have the verbal skills to communicate his or her feelings, around age seven, physical expressions of aggression should taper off. If that’s not happening, it’s time to be concerned, especially if your child is putting himself or others in danger or regularly damaging property.”

How to Know If It’s Serious

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says the following signs all point to a serious problem:

  • Intense anger.
  • Frequent loss of temper.
  • Extreme irritability.
  • Extreme impulsiveness.
  • Becoming easily frustrated.

Don’t ignore these warning signs. Don’t ignore messages and warnings that come from your child’s preschool teachers. They see your child when she’s not under your supervision. If your child is attacking other people or destroying objects, it’s time to take a firm stand. Your child needs help, and time won’t solve this problem.

Get Help for a Violent Preschooler

The first step is to get a complete mental health evaluation for your child. Your pediatrician can recommend a counselor who specializes in children’s mental health. Your child may need therapy and behavior modification. Your child can learn to control his or her violent behavior. Stopping the problem now reduces the chances that your child will grow up to be a violent adult.