Aggression and the small child

by 12.12.2022

Despite the positive trends observed in our country in the recognition of age characteristics in children, it is still common to think that a child is aggressive when he or she plays violently, pushes other children, or falls ‘on purpose, shouts, hits, bites…pinches.

A very important thing that every adult should keep in mind is that there is no way to talk about aggression before the age of 6-7. Since Only only after that can conscious thought activity reach a state of purposeful desire to inflict pain on another, to take revenge, and prevent an event. And yet again, “aggressive” behavior may be a signal of something else going on in the child’s hidden mental world, rather than just a destructive desire.

Why can’t we talk about aggression at an earlier age?

First of all, because of neuro-motor and psycho-motor developmental stages:

Children up to 1-1.5 years of age are in the oral stage of development. They need to taste most of the items with their mouths.

Around 1 year, biting naturally manifests itself as a way of soothing to coping in conflicting situations when there is no alternative.

Children up to 3 years old are in their “sensory-motor” stage of learning about the world. They need to understand the world through their senses – to feel, squeeze, and crush various objects in their surrounding. This is also the period of observed frequent pushing, hitting, pulling other children, jumping, and stepping on furniture and all kinds of surfaces because the young nervous system needs to accumulate information about

HOW/MUCH/WHAT/WHY/WHERE to move the body in space and to improve controlled movement in the physical world. If there is no accumulated experience from doing this over and over and over again, a thousand times then there is, no development present of the neural connections in the brain, and there is no knowledge – no skill.

Until the age of 5-6, most children spend a large part of their time in kindergarten or other similar organizations. This is a period of learning social norms and skills such as sharing toys and space, recognizing one’s own and others’ sensations and feelings, building relationships with significant others, and understanding oneself. 

Conflicts with peers are still very common, precisely because in this period they are learning to communicate, and children do not yet have a large set of “tools” to deal with.

The lifestyle (our way of thinking and behaving, our values, the things and behaviors that are important to us) is formed by the age of five according to the founder of Individual Psychology, Alfred Adler, and the main influence is the parents. His modern followers claim that this process continues beyond the fifth year, with school also playing a role. At the age of 6-7 years, it is already possible due to the formed lifestyle to have purposeful manifestations of aggression, but again it is not certain whether they are conscious or due to insufficient tools for coping.

In case you recognize your child in any of the described examples and do not know how to act to redirect the behavior in a constructive direction, contact us for assistance and support.

Gergana Markova, PhD, Marina Titeva