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6-Year-Old Reacts Violently to Discipline


My 6-year-old granddaughter lives with me. For the past two years, her mother has had visitation rights. My granddaughter has become increasingly violent. She kicks and hits when I put her in time-out. I do not want to hit her back, but I don’t know what to do. I am bruised and battered, as she is very strong.


Young girl with arms crossed, looking angry

The fact that your granddaughter is using aggression to express her feelings is concerning. It doesn’t necessarily mean that she is learning this behavior from any one source though. It could just mean that she has emotions that don’t feel good and she does not know what to do with them. You need to teach her how to handle these emotions in a more appropriate way. It is not OK for you to be battered and bruised.

During a neutral time, work with your granddaughter on ways she can calm herself down. Talk about things that make her angry or sad, such as hearing “no” or being put in time-out. Then talk about the things she can do when she gets mad. She can squeeze a wet washcloth, ​do jumping jacks or count backwards from 10. 

Another option for younger children is teaching them to blow out their “birthday candles.” He or she holds up the number of fingers that represents their age, and ​they pretend these fingers are candles. Then they take a large breath and blow out their candles one by one. Each time they blow out a candle, they fold that finger down. 

Whichever calming tool you choose, have her practice it daily. It is a good idea to have a couple of them in mind in case one is not working on a particular day.

It is important for her to learn that hitting is unacceptable. She must learn to deal with her frustrations without violence because frustrations are a part of life.  When she is older, she can’t go around hitting people when she is upset. Our goal is to help her lead a successful life. Learning to curb her violent behavior will help her achieve this goal.