May 28, 2018
When a parent is faced with aggressive behavior, what should they do? Do you allow the child to holler and carry on? Do you sit there stoic and unresponsive?
Children by nature want to be loved by their parents and to explore the world. They want to make mistakes, be forgiven and loved again. It is really that simple for most kids. The evolutionary advantage of this childhood/teenage mind is the ability to buck social norms that may lead to newer and better ways to live. They see our way but are often looking for better ways to achieve the same or better goals. However, when they feel mistreated or unfairly judged they can often resort to verbal or physical aggressiveness to level the playing field.
Fear is often another genesis of anger and aggression. When a child is scared of losing a sense of self, position in a group, material object that serves a purpose emotionally or others, they may resort to lashing out emotionally.
As a parent, it is our job to stay grounded as the adult in the room and not get emotional as well. Let them have their moment as long as it is not physically
damaging. When they are finished and can count to 10 calmly, engage in a "Love and Logic" conversation about the rules of life and that the perceived unfairness is real, yet it is not worth losing sleep over. It is critical at these emotional moments to not work to overly pacify the child as this enables the unwanted behavior to worsen as you are positively encouraging a troublesome behavior.
It is critical for a child's growth that they learn to stand in the mess of life and work their way out of it with a parent's backing but non interference. This may be the hardest thing that a parent has to do.
If they break a wall or object, it is their responsibility to repair the wall or pay for the object. You can teach them how to repair the wall which increases bonding time as they have to think about the anger action while they grudgingly repair the wall with you. Believe it or not, that is a bonding moment for a child.
If the aggressive behavior persists and shows no signs of abating, it is time to get help. A trained psychologist can offer tips to reduce the behavior that are safe and effective. Spanking's time has clearly passed as no study has ever shown it to be beneficial while many have shown a negative correlation.
I found an excellent article on the things to do to avert aggressive behavior on a website called "One Time Through".
I am going to list some of them here with some of my modifications as I see it:
1) Recognize the reasons for aggression - fear, helplessness, abuse, unfair treatment.
2) Accept the feelings, not the behaviors - this is key! we need to realize that everyone wants to be heard and not judged. This is really hard!
3) Respond firmly and without anger - anger only begets more anger, however, being a waffler will only lead to a brilliant negotiator and manipulator.
4) Tell your child to stop and state your "rules" - they must be told that the behavior is NOT ok and must cease! If it consistently does not, seek professional help.
5) Ask for a 10 count or have them deep breathe in a relaxing breath way. This will set the stage for appropriate resolution dialogue.
6) Ask your child to parrot back appropriate responses - after they have counted to 10 and are calm, have the expectation that they respond to you in an age appropriate manner that shows that they understand the rules and are moving towards compliance with the rules.
7) Show empathy by hearing about their feelings and thoroughly allowing them to exist.
8) Now explore their feelings and help them find words that describe how they feel and can accept - this has to be their feelings not our projections on their feelings. We are just offering words that may fit. It is up to them to accept them as true descriptors of their feelings.
9) Help them get to a place of forgiveness. This is the ultimate place of healing. To say, "I am sorry" and "will you forgive me" are beyond powerful words. This takes your fight or flight system and resets it to a happy balance point.
10) Hug the heck out of them. There is nothing more therapeutic than a physical touch that says that I love you and it is all going to be ok. We will make it if we are a team and care about each other.
Aggression is dangerous and needs to be stamped out,