Home > Kids > Behavior and Discipline > Behavioral Problems > Anger and Aggression > Dealing with Aggressive and Nasty Behavior in Your Child

Dealing with Aggressive and Nasty Behavior in Your Child

Cruella de Kid

Classic bullying is more common among boys, while girls tend to manifest their aggressive behavior in other ways, namely cruelty, or psychological warfare.

Kids who are more subtly aggressive try to control the social dynamics by excluding other kids, talking behind others' backs, saying mean things, and withholding friendship (“I won't invite you to my party unless you…”). Kids are often cruel because they fear being excluded themselves.

  • Victims of even one seemingly small instance of cruelty often hurt for a long time, and sometimes they never forget it. Cruelty damages.
It's a Good Idea!

Parents aren't always aware how their child is doing socially: highly popular, aggressive, victimized, or just doing fine. Ask her about her school day. “What was your favorite thing about today?” “What was your least favorite thing?”

  • Children often exclude others because they've been excluded themselves.
  • If you see your child being cruel to another, show her your disapproval, and talk with her about appropriate ways to talk with and play with people.
  • Support your child's efforts to reach out to friends. Encourage her to invite friends for dinner, for overnights, to special events.
  • It's easier to avoid cruel behavior in a one-on-one play date, rather than during group social time.

When Your Child Has Been Excluded

All kids feel unpopular or excluded at times. Alas, sometimes they really are. Group dynamics are always changing. Cliques, especially among girls, are part of the developmental process of discovering what it means to be a member of a group. When your child feels excluded, be a big ear and listen well. Calm her by listening (advice doesn't usually help) and help her by involving her with other groups and activities as well.

When Your Child Is Chronically Victimized

If your child has become victimized in more than one social setting, then something else is going on, and she needs some help to become more adept socially. Don't let victimization slide. Work with her to develop more assertive behavior, to deflect teasing, and to show her strength. Victims often remain victims because they reward their tormentors by crying or cringing. A child who can stand up to a bully (and this doesn't mean beating the crap out of him, it's more a psychological thing) often stop being targeted.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

family games

Everything you need for family game night!


8 Steps to Take Before Trying to Conceive
Planning to try for a new baby in the new year? Follow these preconception steps to help prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

6 Homemade Play Dough Recipes
Looking for a creative cure for cabin fever? Whip up one of these easy homemade play dough recipes with your child today!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!