Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why would a child be aggressive?"
My daughter is 4 and she is extremely, violently aggressive if she does not get her way. She expresses her anger by lashing out physically at anyone or anything in reach. At first I thought it was a really bad toddler phase, but it's not getting better. What should I do?
Sometimes children do have a prolonged 'toddler phase' in which they negotiate what they can 'get away with' and throw many temper tantrums. To start with, the best step is to make sure that you have a clear, consistent way of parenting and that there is a clear system of rewards and punishments in place for good and bad behavior. If these approaches do not work, then it is possible that there is another disorder going on. For example, attention deficit disorder can manifest in younger children with aggressive symptoms as symptomatic of a larger problem with impulse control. ADD is more likely if there are also symptoms of inattention, of limited ability to focus, of "forgetting" or "not listening" to you. If you think this may be going on, it would be helpful also to gather additional information for other people who know your daughter well. For example if she has been in a Head Start or preschool program, talking to her teachers to see what her behavior is like in that setting is advised. If she has play dates with friends, you may want to talk to those other parents to see how your daughter behaves there. With all this information in hand, the next best step is to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician to see if more diagnostic work up or a referral is needed.
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