Aggression in children. How to fight it?
Aggression in children is a common phenomenon. It occurs in kids of all ages – from toddlers to teenagers. This is not always the problem of parenting, but in most cases correct actions by the parents' will eliminate the problem. What causes kid's aggression? Who knows, each case is unique: among the reasons there may be a poor role model (adults, older brothers and sisters), child's nature (temperament), a kind of self-defense, or a latent demand for love and attention. Though whatever the causes of aggressive behavior, the main point is the same: the child is not able to adequately solve the problem.
Fighting with the problem of child aggression, it is important not to blame either yourself or the kid. You are not 'bad' parents, and the child is not 'bad' as well. When a kid acts aggressively, he hurts himself, his parents and other people, so you need to as quickly as possible find a way for a child to handle the unpleasant situation without anger.
Of course, it'd be good to know the cause of aggression, but it's not always possible to detect it – the more so as the children are not likely to tell you what's eating them. It happens often that through patience and correct adult behavior the kid stops attacking, and parents can only guess what caused the unacceptable behavior. So sometimes it's better not to look for the cause and to simply act against manifestations.
Here, the first and most important mistake of the parents is to ask "why?". "Why did you hit your brother?", "Why did you call your teacher names?", "Why did you break Steve's train?". By asking such questions, the adults kind of find excuses for the kid. For the question 'why' implies that there may be a reason that would justify the aggression. Instead, the child must make clear that any aggressive actions – either verbal, or physical – are unacceptable in any case. It's absolutely necessary to talk to your child about his conduct, but you should ask questions like, "What were you trying to solve by this?", "What did you want to achieve?", "How should you do differently next time?".
Moreover, even in response to your 'why' the kid is unable to see the relationship between the wrongs and the need to correct something. On the other hand, asking, "What did you want to achieve?", you give a chance to understand that problems could and should be settled otherwise – without violence and abuse.
Overcoming childhood aggression, regardless of the age of the child you should follow certain principles:
- Be consistent. Always, every time, whatever state you are in (angry, tired, or cheerful), you must demonstrate the same reaction to an aggressive behavior. This way the child realizes that aggression is always frowned upon – regardless of the reasons that caused it.
- Demonstrate the consequences. The child has to realize that ill acts are condemned not just because it's 'prohibited', 'not nice', or it hurts someone. All these explanations may be too abstract for the kid. Instead, the scheme must be clear: if you attack children on the playground, we immediately go home; if you hit a dog because she did not want to bring you the ball, you will not play with her anymore. The penalty is effective if it is directly related to the action in its nature and time.
- Concur. All those involved in the upbringing of the child (parents, grandmothers, grandfathers, siblings, neighbors, caregivers, teachers, nannies) should react the same way in case of aggressive behavior. If someone systematically justifies aggression, all other disciplinary measures won't have any positive effect. In addition, adults who condemn aggressive behavior and punish for it come off as enemies.
- Resist insincere apology. Most kids just learn forgiveness language and keep blaming the victim. "David did not give me his cars so I hit him. I will never do the like again". Do not believe him that he won't – not till the next time. That's because he does not feel his responsibility: it is David to blame. Make sure that the kid understands that even in nasty situations he should act peacefully.
- Be a leader. That is, let your kid understand that it's you who controls the situation – the rules, punishments and rewards. Thanks to this the child will trust you, and perceive his environment as safe and reliable. The feeling of loneliness, which perhaps is the reason for aggressive behavior, will be eliminated as well.