Parenting --Teens/10 year old boy aggressive


My husband and I are the parents of three boys ages 10, 8 and 4.  Overall the boys are healthy, well adjusted, loving, and active.  They have all done well in school and we've never had any significant discipline issues.  Over the last 6 months, my 10 year old son has started exhibiting more and more aggressive behavior.  He and my 8 year old frequently play with several other boys on our street.  Some of the other boys are a couple of years older than my 10 year old and have started becoming more verbally abusive during informal games they all play such as football, basketball, Nerf gun wars, etc.  And by verbally abusive I just mean the "trash talk" has gotten a little more intense.  My 10 year old is having a horrible time dealing with this and becomes aggressive and physical with the other boys when he loses his temper.  Yesterday all the boys were playing outside and my 10 year old became so angry after one of the older boys kept getting in his face that he started a physical fight with the older boy.  My son then proceeded to scream from our front porch for the older boy to get off his property and was pretty much hysterical.  It makes me very sad for my 10 year old because I think the other boys have figured out how to push his buttons and know he will eventually start a fight and lose control.  I'm afraid these boys have started making my son's reaction part of their entertainment.  I told my son that he can't control those other boys but he can control his reaction.  But that is hard for a 10 year old to remember when he's in the heat of the moment.  I'm concerned that my son is going to let his anger get out of control and it's really going to become a problem as he gets older. When he becomes angry and frustrated with someone (another boy) he seems to default to a physical reaction by hitting them. FYI, he's never shown any aggression towards me or my husband.  And we don't allow our sons to play violent video games, watch the news or violent television shows.  I don't know how to help him and your advice would be very much appreciated.

Hello Leslie,

 Thank you for the complete and undoubtedly accurate description of the problem. I agree that for many boys about this age, it is difficult to remember the right thing to do in the heat of the moment. However, having worked with boys in this kind of situation, I would offer the following suggestion.
Provide him with a set of steps he can learn and use in situations when other boys provoke him to anger. The steps for him to learn and apply are these:
 1. What is the problem?
 2. What choices do I have?
 3. What happens if I pick each choice?
 4. What is the best choice?
 5. How did it turn out?

 After every time he has had an angry interaction with peers, go over these steps with him. Go over each step and ask him the question. Suggest that he remember the steps the next time he is provoked. Let him know you expect him to remember these questions and you expect him to use these questions to guide his reactions. You can be supportive when he forgets in the heat of the moment, but always indicate that you have confidence he will remember and use them next time.

If you go over this faithfully, sooner or later he will actually begin using these and having fewer physical altercations.

 Any questions?


James Windell  

Parenting --Teens

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James Windell


I am a parent trainer, psychotherapist, and author specializing in parenting issues.During the past 40 years I`ve worked with parents with discipline problems and challenging children. I give frequent lectures and workshops related to discipline, social skills, and aggressive children. I consult with various agencies and schools where there are child behavior problems. I am listed in the American Psychological Associations` media panel as an expert on parenting and am frequently quoted in leading magazines and newspapers.


I have worked in a juvenile court as a clinical psychologist and as a psychotherapist in private practice. In the Oakland County (MI) Juvenile Court, I developed an award-winning parent training program for parents of adolescent delinquents. In addition I have done group therapy with adolescent delinquents using a social skills-building model. I have consulted with courts, schools, churches, preschools, and domestic violence shelters in areas of parenting.

I received my BA with a major in Psychology in 1963 from Wayne State University. I got my MA in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University in 1972.

I am a member of the American Psychological Association and the Michigan Psychological Association. I have written pamplets, newspaper articles, and professional journal articles. I have been the Coping With Kids columnist for several newspapers for 26 years, and my columns appear weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been the author or co-author of 16 books. My books include, 8 WEEKS to A WELL-BEHAVED CHILD, CHILDREN WHO SAY NO WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO SAY YES, 6 STEPS TO AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT TEENAGER, and THE FATHERSTYLE ADVANTAGE. My most recent parenting book (2012) is THE EVETYTHING CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BOOK. I have appeared on over 180 radio and TV shows related to my books and parenting. For more information about me, my books and columns, go to my website at

I have an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University.

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