Aggression is a common problem in many of my patients, not just those on the autism spectrum, but also those with ADHD, developmental delays, and cognitive impairments. It is common at home, and less common in school. It is frequently triggered by frustration and is more of an impulse than intent to harm. Feeling ill and pain are often factors. It is most frequent in children just starting to use 2 word phrases (and is popularly known as “the terrible twos” regardless of age) and as puberty begins.
First of all – DON’T PANIC! Your child will sense this, and things will get worse.
Second – Don’t Spank – under any circumstances. Your home needs to be a “no hitting” place. This means NO ONE is allowed to hit or hurt ANYONE! Spanking gives your children implicit permission to his others. The research clearly shows spanking leads to more aggressive children.
Third – Give the victim attention first. Slather the love and sympathy on. ”Oh, I’m so sorry he did that. Did he hurt you? Let me kiss it. Do you need a Band-Aid?” Then quietly and firmly take the offender to your “time out” place. If he/she will have a tantrum, put them in their room and close the door. As soon as there is a pause in the tantrum, open the door and say “I’m so glad you are feeling better. Now apologize to (the victim) and do something nice for him/her. Remember, no hitting”
If every time your child loses your attention (especially to a sibling) he has less and less reason to be aggressive. The school and both parents have to be consistent, or the child will constantly test the limits. Also, the behavior will get worse before it gets better – that’s called an extinction burst.
I know it is easy for me to say this, and very hard to do – especially not showing you are upset. But if you are persistent and consistent, it usually works.
I probably give this talk about 10 times a week. You are not alone. Remember — CONSISTENT AND PERSISTENT!