What is Aggression?
There are a lot of times when your child’s behavior warms your heart. But, there are other times when it drives you crazy and you wonder what has come over your child. For most toddlers, they lack the self-control to express anger in a calm way and so lash out by screaming, hitting, biting or throwing things. Shocking as this may seem, a certain degree of aggression is a normal part of a child’s development. As a young child, he or she can easily get frustrated with everything they’re trying to achieve and end up lashing out at a playmate.
If your child just started attending daycare or preschool for the first time, frustration might mount up from trying to get used to being away from home and might feel neglected if she doesn’t get all the teacher’s attention whenever she needs it. She might end up retaliating by shoving the next kid who slightly annoys her or gets in her way. All of these can be normal.
Even older children may continue to have trouble controlling their temper and may end up being totally aggressive. A learning difficulty, self-esteem (probably from being overweight or taller or shorter than every other kid in the class). A psychological blow such as a divorce, illness or even moving to a new place can trigger aggressive behaviours in children.
Whatever the cause of your child’s aggression, most likely he will eventually outgrow it as she develops more and understands or masters a particular skill and understands how to use words more to express her feelings or solve issues.
That said, there are cases and instances when a particular child seems to be overly aggressive at the slightest provocation and doesn’t hesitate to harm another person or doesn’t feel remorseful after causing harm to another child. Such cases should not be overlooked as a phase but should be taken seriously. In fact, without intervention, aggression (mild or extreme) in children can become a lifelong problem. Dealing with angry or aggressive children early on, and using the right techniques, can make all the difference.
SIGNS OF AN OVERLY AGGRESSIVE CHILD
Look out for these signs to know if your child has a problem with aggression.
- Has trouble taking part in social activities and making friends.
- Becomes frustrated easily.
- Frequently loses his temper and gets angry intensely.
- Physically attacks other children or adults.
- Cannot stay focused or performs poorly.
- Won’t accept parental authority and argues or fights with family members.
- Frequently denies responsibilities for his misbehavior and blames others.
An aggressive child will act this way in more than one place. It could be at home, in school, in church, at a park or just anywhere.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
- Do not be aggressive yourself.
No matter the provocation, don’t get aggressive yourself. Hitting, yelling, or name calling will never get your child to stop his bad behavior. Your action will only give him an example of what to do when he’s angry. You are an example of what he should aim to be like, so try and set a good example by controlling your temper and calmly pulling him aside to talk.
- Respond Immediately.
Do not wait until your child punches his brother or destroys a piece of equipment before you take action. It’s best to let him know immediately when he’s done something wrong.
- Calm down, then discuss what happened.
Give him a few minutes to a few hours to calm down, but do not let it get unsolved for too long. Calmly review the circumstances that led to his aggressive behavior. Let him tell you what triggered the aggression then calmly suggest better ways of responding such as walking away or using words to express his emotions.
- Discipline consistently.
Try responding to his aggressive behavior the same way every time. The more predictable you are, the sooner he’ll realize that when he misbehaves he’ll get sent out of the fun or get punished accordingly. Eventually, it will sink in and he’ll begin to think more before he acts. Even he misbehaves in public, stick to your plan regardless of what people around are saving. Most people will understand your stand especially if they have experienced it with their own children.
- Promote responsibility.
Make him bear responsibility especially if his outburst led to physical damage of a property. He should pay to have it fixed, either from his allowance or with money earned or saved. Explain to him that it’s the natural consequence of an act like that.
- Reward him when he’s being good.
Do not only pay attention to when he misbehaves, but also pay attention to when he does well and behaves appropriately. Let him know how proud you are of him. Teach your child that acting out physically or aggressively isn’t right because it hurts other people and that he must think of how his actions affect other people before he throws a fit.
- Watch what your child watches
Some innocent looking cartoons can have aggressive undertones. Some of the shows they watch are filled with shouting, threats, shooting, hitting, and fighting. So try to monitor the shows and digital games your child sees by joining in during their screen time especially if he’s prone to aggression. Select age-appropriate content for your children.
- Ask for help if you need it.
Sometimes an undiagnosed learning or behaviour disorder is behind the frustration and anger, or sometimes the problem is related to family or emotional difficulties. Whatever the cause, when you feel overwhelmed or feel like you’re not getting through to your child, speak to a child psychologist or psychiatrist.