As parents, few situations are more difficult to deal with when you have a child who is aggressive toward other children. It can be embarrassing as well as frightening when your child bites, hits, scratches or kicks to get his or her way. It’s not uncommon for younger children to engage in this type of behavior at various points in their development and in a variety of settings. However, when it becomes very frequent or seems to be their consistent way of reacting to something they don’t like, it’s time to step in and help them change their behavior. The first step is understanding the underlying reasons why your child is choosing to act out this way. The more you understand what’s happening, the better you’ll be able to help them find other, non-aggressive ways to solve their problems.
Initially, between the ages of 18 months to 2 years, children find it extremely hard to communicate their needs to their parents, caregivers, and other children. Negative behaviors are one way they may choose to get their point across. For older children between the ages of three and six, such behaviors may be the result of never having learned appropriate, non-aggressive ways of communicating when they were faced with a difficult situation.
If your child has a tendency towards such aggressive behavior, it is up to you to discipline him/her and inculcate logic and reason in him, so that they can express whatever they feel in a much human manner.
Children often need to know what sort of behavior is permitted and what is not. So reprimand your child immediately the moment he or she exhibits indecent behavior, so that they understand exactly what they have done wrong.
Encourage your child to be verbal and vocal about what they feel rather than indulging in indecent behavior. Praise them and design a reward system for them if they comply. Better still, resolve your own family conflicts peacefully so that you set an example for your child.
Don’t spank the kid if he/she has done something wrong. However, this is not the right approach, for children who are physically punished often believe that this is the right way to handle people around them, when they disapprove of other’s behavior. In other words, physical punishment can reinforce your child’s aggressiveness towards others.
Always be aware of the fact that children tend to mirror the behaviors of their guardians and parents. So if you express your anger in a reasonable way, you children will most likely be following your example and not grow up as an unruly, aggressive adult.
Here are 5 ways to manage aggressive children
Be involved. As a parent, it’s your job to guide and teach your child how to handle emotions and stressful situations. That doesn’t mean it’s your “fault” that your child is behaving aggressively. It means your child is experiencing something (emotions, a stressful situation) that he isn’t equipped to handle. He needs you to show him how to deal with intense emotions.
Create a Comfortable Relationship. If your child is experiencing intense emotions that she doesn’t know how to handle, is she comfortable enough in the parent-child relationship to come to you? Or is she afraid you’ll get mad and yell. Tell your child there’s nothing you can’t work through together and that you’re there to support her. Then show her, through your own behavior, that when you are upset, you handle your emotions in a way that is constructive, without exploding.
Give your Child Words. Many children don’t have the ability to name an emotion they’re feeling. Help your child identify that “under anger” is usually another feeling, then validate that feeling as normal. Even though the behavior (screaming, hitting, throwing things) isn’t okay, the feeling that triggered the behavior is valid. “Of course you felt sad when your friend left to hang out with someone else. But throwing rocks at him isn’t the way to handle it.”
Brainstorm on Coping Tools. No matter what the cause is of the aggressive behavior, your child must learn to cope with intense emotions or he’s going to have some negative consequences in life.
Behavior and Mood Disorders. Aggression can be part of a bigger picture. If your child continues to exhibit aggression despite your efforts to help her manage emotions, you may want to schedule an appointment with a counselor or therapist. Chemical imbalances, ADHD and behavior patterns such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder can all contribute to aggressive behavior. In those cases – or if there’s a tendency to implode – your child might benefit from more intensive support from a mental health professional.
Similarly, if you are dealing with an aggressive teenager, try and be a role model for them.
When children use aggressive or abusive behavior to solve their problems, it’s important that they learn a way to replace that behavior with healthier problem-solving skills. It’s just not enough to point out—and give consequences for—that behavior. It’s also important to help your child replace their inappropriate behavior with something that will help him solve the problem at hand without getting into trouble or hurting others.
Many-a-times, if you feel that the argument is spiraling out of control, give them their space, walk away and get back only when things are a bit better. This way, you can give your child a chance to reflect on his behavior and calm down, thus allowing them to be more reasonable when the discussion commences.
Develop ways to have problem-solving conversations with your teen so the next time they’re faced with a similar situation, they’ll be able to ask themselves what they can do to solve the problem differently, besides being aggressive or threatening. For instance, the next time your son calls his little sister names and threatens her physically in order to get her off the computer, you should not only correct him, but later, have a conversation with him when things calm down. That conversation should be, “The next time you’re frustrated when you want to get on the computer, what can you do differently so you don’t get into trouble and get more consequences. What can you do to get more rewards?”
Changing and becoming a more effective parent can be a very long process. You need to keep sticking with it and understand that you can gain in your ability to be effective. The key is to be open to different ideas and different ways of doing things. Above all, I want to say this: “Don’t get discouraged. Things can change at any moment and at any time. Just be preserrant”.
Lastly, maintain dignity and an appropriate tone while dealing with your child. Never resort to un-parliamentary language. Remember, your child will only grow up to learn things you might have taught him, either consciously or not. So instead of demanding a direct answer to questions every single time, be subtle in asking them things which don’t make them feel ego busted.