Learning About Violent Behavior in Children and Teens

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What is it?

Violent behavior includes fighting, bullying, and using a weapon to threaten or hurt others. Most violence occurs between friends or acquaintances or in families. It may be aimed at parents, other children, friends, or family members.

What increases the risk?

Lots of things can increase the risk of violent behavior in a child or teen's life. These things include violence at school, at home, or in the community. It also includes drug and alcohol use. Playing violent video games or watching violent movies can also increase the risk.

What are the warning signs?

There can be many signs that children or teens may be thinking about being violent. For example, they may get into fights. They may bully others, hurt animals, or damage someone's property. Other signs include talking or posting on social media about violence and withdrawing from friends, family, and activities.

How can you protect your child or teen from becoming violent?

Parents can help protect their child or teen from being violent. When kids feel loved and safe, they are more likely to deal with situations without using violence. Here are some things you can try.

  • Set rules and limits so that your child knows what's expected.
  • Be involved in your child's life.
  • Know what your child enjoys and how they spend free time.
  • Be aware of what your child is doing online.
  • Remove guns and other weapons from your home.

    Locking a gun in a place away from the ammunition may help. But there is still a risk.

  • Know who your child spends time with.
    • Explore ways that your child can avoid situations that aren't safe. Also look for ways your child can avoid hanging out with those who might encourage violent behavior.
    • Talk to your teen about the effect a group can have on their life. Peers have a strong impact on the way a teen acts.
  • Protect your child from violence in media as much as you can.

    Children who watch a lot of this violence may start to believe that such actions are okay. This can make them more likely to be violent themselves.

  • Be a positive role model.

    Help your child find ways to resolve conflict without using violence. All other adults in the home and other family members can be good role models too.

    • Role-play conflict. Let your child decide which style fits them best. Role-play ways to help your child walk away from fights.
    • Use nonviolent ways to resolve conflict in your home. Let your child see how you discuss issues without physically or verbally attacking the other person. People who witness violence in their home or community are more likely to choose violence to resolve conflict.
    • React to hard situations in a calm, relaxed way. Don't yell or call people names.
  • Encourage your child to get involved in sports, music, or other activities.
    • Taking part in activities gives children and teens a sense of skill success and helps build a positive self-image.
    • Playing sports or exercising can be a way to release energy.
    • Organized sports and other recreational and service activities can provide good role models.
  • Talk to your teen about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

    Dating abuse is common among teens. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, or physical. It can happen in person, over the computer, and over the phone. Explain that this is not acceptable. Tell your teen that a caring partner would not do something to someone that causes fear, lowers self-esteem, or causes injury. Talk with your teen about how to leave a relationship that isn't healthy.

  • Discourage alcohol and drug use.

    Teens who use alcohol or drugs are more likely to be in violent situations.

    • Talk with your teen about what to do if they're in a situation where alcohol or drugs are being used.
    • Be aware of your own alcohol or drug use. Don't give your teen the idea that you need to have a drink in order to enjoy yourself. Never drink and drive.
  • Get help.

    Talk with a health professional or licensed counselor if you think that your child may need help dealing with conflict. For example, if you've been told your child has been bullying others, take this seriously and seek help.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter V325 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Violent Behavior in Children and Teens".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.