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We have a 6-year-old boy. He is generally lovely, bright, and easy to be around, but is often quick to anger when playing with friends and smaller kids (classic example is when he does not get his own way) resulting is shouting, screaming, hitting, and very occasionally biting. When he reaches this point it tends to happen very quickly (before he can catch it) and he upsets both himself and others.

We are concerned that this is limiting him socially and we are actively seeking a strategy to help him. We are at the point when we are ready to see a child psycholgist. Can anyone suggest, books, strategies or next steps here?

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Many aggressive children are simply not getting enough exercise. However, your situation seems more trigger related.

Close supervision with immediate consequences would be my best suggestion. Sending your child out for a play date without your presence seems like a bad idea. You know his triggers; you know when he needs to be pulled out of a situation. He will reach an age where it will be embarrassing to do so, so now is the time to observe and correct.

As for the child psychologist, do you have a goal in mind other than I want him to stop? His kindergarten teacher and school guidance counselor might be a good initial resource, and they will not hesitate to refer you if they see the need.

  • "Close supervision with immediate consequences" is most definitely not the solution. That way you teach your son that you will take care of his loss of control which prevents him form learning control himself. Also, immediate consequences assume that his behaviour is voluntary and directed which, from your description ("upsets both himself and others") is not the case. The situation after his loss of control is consequence enough for him. What he really needs is to learn to control his impulses (see my answer below). – Thawn Feb 24 '16 at 12:39
  • Obviously I disagree with you. I have a great deal of data to support my conclusion. I find your comment inappropriate based on the stated purpose of Stack Exchange. If you don't like my answer, you may downvote it. – Stu W Feb 24 '16 at 16:19
  • I felt a comment would be more constructive than a down vote. Also it is the stated purpose of stack exchange to give links to data that supports your answer. So if you have the data, why not share it? – Thawn Feb 25 '16 at 11:48
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This sounds like your son loses impulse control in these situations. From your description ("upsets himself and others") he already knows that his behavior is not acceptable. The problem is that he reaches a point where he looses control and cannot help acting the way he does. This means just telling him to stop does not help him any more. He needs to learn to control these impulses himself.

In my experience the best way to do that is to identify the impulses and give him room to live them out under conditions that are fun rather than stressful. That way he learns strategies to live out his impulses in a constructive way (getting exercise and practicing his motor skills in the process).

For example, you could go out to a lake and throw rocks into the water as far and wide as possible. Or you could go into the woods and fight monsters (trees/bushes) with sticks. At home you could get a punching ball and/or foam swords (our kids love to fight with the foam insulation used for heated water pipes). Just be creative and find out what activity (the more active the better) he really enjoys. This is most likely the activity that helps him best to learn to control his impulses.

  • Janet Lehman, MSW, is as good as it gets; plus, any of her professional articles will have multiple references. As a good intro lay read, try "How to Manage Aggressive Child Behavior." – Stu W Feb 26 '16 at 4:18

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