What can I do if my child is being violent?

It can be hard to know what to do if your child is being violent. Violence can take the form of kicking, hitting, throwing things or using objects to lash out.

If your child is at risk of hurting you or anyone else, first make sure that you and your family are safe. If you think anyone is in immediate danger of harm, call 999.

angry teen with hands on head

Violent behaviour can be caused by many things and doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong as a parent. Sometimes a child may not know how to express their feelings. Or they may be going through a change or experience they find difficult. Tackling violent behaviour can take some time, and it’s important to get support for yourself too.

Learn about what they’re feeling

    • Notice what triggers their violent behaviour. Is it when you ask your child to do something? Is it related to school? Has it got worse since the start of lockdown?
    • Try talking to your child about their behaviour when they are calm. Take time to listen and be empathetic. Acknowledge how your child was feeling at the time they lashed out and help them name the emotion.
    • Is their behaviour linked to difficult emotions like stress or anxious feelings? Read up on how to understand and help them manage these emotions.
    • Explore anger with your child. Try reading the book Volcano in My Tummy (for ages six to 13). It offers tools for understanding and dealing with children’s anger.
    • Find out how they’re doing at school. Make sure the teachers are aware of what’s happening. They may be able to offer some insight on what’s going on outside of the family.

      Set a positive example on behaviour

      As well as talking to your child about how they’re feeling, consider how the rest of the family is acting. How might this be influencing events?

      • Stay calm. Act like you would like your child to act. If they see you behaving in a calm and kind manner they are more likely to do this too.
      • Do your best to be honest and open with your child at a level that is age-appropriate for them
      • Listen to your child – but also explain that anger is something everyone experiences and violence is not acceptable. Tell them you want to help them find more appropriate ways to express these feelings.
      • Try showing them how you keep calm when you get angry or frustrated. For example, you might show them how you breathe deeply and notice how your heart rate changes.
      • Focus on the positive things your child does. Praise little things. Try to give them more attention for the behaviour you want to see more of than the behaviour you want to see less of.
      • Start a behaviour diary. Use this to reflect on what happens each time your child is violent, and what you can learn for next time.

      Look at how your days are organised

      Think about how you organise your days and if moving things around could help your child.

      • Introduce more structure. Involve your child in the decision-making for how this looks. Having a routine can sometimes help children and young people feel more at ease. This is often the case if your child has additional needs like autism. Notice if you’re doing things without warning and if this might upset your child. Try to prepare them for any changes.
      • Put some house rules in place. Involve your child in creating these rules so they feel like they have some control.
      • Offer rewards when your child is kind. A kindness chart can help with this.
      • Get support. If appropriate, talk to your GP about what’s happening. Or seek support from the NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). Find your local children’s centre – these often run parenting classes that can offer advice and reassurance.
      • Look after yourself. Make sure you’re taking time in your days for self-care and your mental health and wellbeing.
      Go back

      Understanding and managing my child’s behaviour

      Read

      How to talk to your child about difficult topics

      Read

      My child is having suicidal thoughts

      Read

      How can I help if my child is worried about Covid-19?

      Read

      Talk to us

      Free and confidential live chat with parenting staff. Chat online or request a call back when it’s convenient for you.

      Chat icon on mobile phone