Aggressive behavior in parents

Parents always want the best for their children. That is an established fact. So why do some parents become aggressive towards their children when they know this is not healthy? How do you deal with anger and aggression as a parent? What are the causes? How can you protect your child? Why is it important that you as a parent learn to deal with your anger? You will find answers in this article.


Aggression is an expression of anger. The aim is to transfer one’s own psychological pain to another individual, animal or object by hurting that person, abusing the animal or damaging the object. Although anger is not really negative ( it is an emotion and an emotion indicates that something is happening inside that you have to deal with: the expression can be positive or negative ), aggression is negative. Intentionally hurting another person or animal is unacceptable. That is why it is important that you learn to deal with your aggression and find other ways to express your anger.

Aggression towards own child

Sometimes aggression can be directed towards strangers who happen to cross your path. These people have no face for you and seem to be the ideal victims to take your anger out on. You see this a lot, for example, with football hooligans or racists. I don’t want to go into this in depth in this article. The tips you will find below can also be used for aggression towards strangers.

Other victims are loved ones: partner and child are often abused ( mentally or physically ) without anyone knowing. This hidden aggression often has distressing consequences for the child’s development. When reports of child abuse are reported, the focus is usually only on the children. The most important thing is that a child can recover in a safe environment. People sometimes forget that parents also need help. They are forced into a black and white picture of monster versus prey without being given a chance to get out. In this article I do not want to justify child abuse. I also don’t want to portray the parents as victims. They are the adults and they are responsible for their actions. This also means that they are responsible for solving this problem and giving their children the best education within their capabilities. That is why in this article you will find practical tips for parents who are struggling with the aggression monster so that they can intervene before it escalates and find a solution to the vicious circle of aggression and anger.

Causes of aggression towards own child

Aggression often appears suddenly: it seems like a bomb that suddenly explodes. For the person in question, the explosion is not sudden, but a succession of different irritations. It is almost an instinctive reaction to the proverbial straw. Many people are often shocked by their reaction and feel deeply ashamed of what they have done. In order not to lose face and to feel better about themselves, many people look for a rational explanation, such as that the child provoked it.

As mentioned earlier, aggression is an expression of anger. Anger indicates that something is wrong in personal life. It is a very strong emotion that gives a lot of energy. This energy can be constructive if channeled properly. If the anger is bottled up ( or rationally explained away each time ), it will express itself in an unwanted form such as aggression.

All parents love their children. It’s something special to see a part of yourself grow up. All parents want the best for their child and want their child to have a better life than them. This ,having better, is very subjective . This may be materially better or emotionally better or it may have a completely different interpretation ( including views on education that do not match our values ). It is therefore illogical that parents can still hurt their child: if they want the best for their child, why do they damage their child emotionally and/or psychologically?

The causes vary and depend on the circumstances and personalities of the parties involved. At the root of all causes is the fact that something is wrong: the parent is struggling with something. Below are a number of possible causes:

  • negative self-image: child reminds the parent of his imperfection or the parent takes out his self-hatred on his child
  • financial problems: the parent cannot raise the child the way he or she wants due to a lack of money
  • health problems: the parent cannot care for the child as he or she would like
  • baggage of the parent: the parent has a negatively charged past
  • the parent does not know any better and thinks he is doing the right thing ( because he himself received the same parenting method from his parents )
  • the parent has no breathing space ( no time for themselves )

These are not all causes: just a few possibilities. A combination of different causes is also possible.

Dealing with anger and aggression

There are a number of steps you need to take to tackle the aggression problem. Below you will find the different steps. Together these steps form the word BEZIN.


The first step is awareness: you notice that your behavior is not correct. You feel that you are doing something wrong. A happy child suddenly becomes very sad or your son imitates you and hits his brother or your child gets nightmares at night or … . Time stands still for a moment and you suddenly look at the situation from the outside and realize that your child is suffering from your behavior.


The second step is to acknowledge the problem: you admit that it is indeed your fault and do not look for rational answers as to why, but dare to admit that your child is really suffering because of you.

To see

The third step is to see what causes it. You look for the cause of your behavior. Why are you so angry with your child? What behavior provokes aggression? Why?


The fourth step is intervention. You want to change the situation and take action. You look for possible solutions and, if it is too difficult to solve yourself, professional help.

Apply new behavior

The final step is to apply the new behavior. This behavior is an alternative to aggression and helps you express your anger in a healthy way.

Practical tips

Below are some tips to express your anger in a healthy way:

  • expression: talking, writing, drawing, singing, …: this is how you become aware of your anger
  • sport: this is how you lose your energy
  • controlling impulses ( counting to 10 )
  • use stress ball
  • creating: baking, assembling furniture, crafting, puzzling, assembling building kits, etc…
  • shred paper
  • to polish
  • to chop wood
  • everything you can think of to get your feet back on the ground without denying or ignoring your emotions

If you find yourself in a conflict situation with your child and you feel aggression coming, make sure it doesn’t get to that point. As a parent, you are responsible for a safe environment for your child. Your child can only trust you if he knows you won’t hurt him. What can you do to prevent the situation from escalating?

  • time-out
  • breathe deeply
  • look your child straight in the eye without talking
  • putting yourself in your child’s shoes
  • stand at your child’s eye level (squat)
  • Express the energy you feel bubbling up by, for example, squeezing a stress ball ( or your palms ), biting your tongue ( ouch! ), moving, …
  • think about the moment you first saw your child and what you felt then
  • telling your child what you feel and asking them to express themselves (empathy)
  • everything you can think of that has no negative consequences for those present


Why is this important?

  • Your child’s development: your child cannot develop if he or she feels unsafe.
  • Relations within the family: aggression is contagious. If one family member reacts aggressively, the others will take over.
  • Your descendants: there is a good chance that your child will use the same parenting method as you. Negative behavior ( or its consequences ) is passed on for generations.
  • Society: if aggression is normal behavior for your child, he will see no reason why he should not react aggressively towards his fellow human beings.
  • Negative energy attracts negative energy.



Aggression ( verbal or physical ) is not to be confused with the so-called ,educational slap,. With the educational slap, the intention is not to hurt the other person: there is no blind anger looking for an outlet. The parent or caregiver hits the child deliberately and not impulsively. The intention is to demonstrate to the child that the behavior is undesirable. Parents and educators who use this method want to correct the child’s behavior. They will also hit the child consistently when the unwanted behavior occurs, while aggression has a rather random pattern. Many aggressive parents use the ,corrective slap, as an excuse because this is a method that is often used ( although it is increasingly under discussion ).

Leave a Comment