Aggressive Behavior

As children grow, some turn out to be nice and acceptable, some turn out to be kids of irregular behavior involving violent outbursts and yet a few become dull and idle. As for nice children who are intelligent of their age with a nice attitude and behavior, parents do not have problems. However, in the case of children with violent behavior, parents  face serious difficulties trying to bring them up as normal intelligent adults having good health and integrity. This section offers tips to help parents to manage aggressive behavior in children.

In the early stages, parents rarely take note of aggressive behavior displayed by children due to several reasons. One of them being, love and affection towards their children. As a result, occasional erring and defiant behavior of a child is considered to be a minor issue and is appreciated. Many parents unknowingly encourage their kids’ tantrums by fulfilling all their demands. Violent behavior in children must be taken seriously. It requires remedial and preventive solutions at the hands of parents, other family members, teachers and concerned people.

Children who exhibit aggressive behavior display deliberate attempt to hurt others. This can be seen  in a number of ways:

  • hitting
  • kicking
  • spitting
  • biting
  • pushing
  • throwing objects
  • destroying property, especially, toys, plates, TV Screens, decorative articles etc.

One might wonder why aggressive behavior becomes a habit in some children. The reasons are simple but intriguing in  nature.
The reasons are many:

  • low self esteem
  • limited communication with parents
  • limited problem solving skills
  • frustration
  • stress
  • exposure to violence in the home, community or visual media
  • emotional problems
  • abuse
  • spending time with peers who are aggressive
  • temperament

How to deal with Violent Outbursts in Children?

Children tend to repeat certain behavior till  their attention is diverted to some other activity or issue which interests them. This is inherent in every human being. Craving to get engaged is a  reason for such attitude in children.

Repeat of one action or behavior several times forms new temporary nerve connections between different sensory centres in the cortex of brain. These temporary nerve connections are called conditioned reflexes. Even a small temptation or craving will be enough for the conditioned nerve connection (reflex) to act. To avoid such contexts, provide them with consistent, positive attention to eliminate aggressive  behavior. In children this is easily done by diverting their attention to activities which are interesting.

Keep consistent watch and prevent children from consuming stimulant materials that trigger violent outbursts.

Surroundings  can set the tone for calmness or chaos . Clear efforts at the hands of parents and family members are called for to control surroundings  that influence children. Be selective about the types of television programmes children watch. Don’t let them view shows that depict violence as humorous, or as a way to deal with problems. This is a way of controlling surroundings that influence children.

Acknowledge the child’s feelings while setting boundaries. Maintain eye contact with  children  and find ways to help them  communicate their anger. Let them know that it’s okay to be angry but hurting others is not acceptable. You can say, “I understand that you’re angry but I expect you to (state the boundary).”

Make sure that children have opportunities to expend excess energy by getting plenty of physical activity each day. Parents must also learn to control themselves while in an angry mood. If parents express their anger in quiet, peaceful ways, the child will follow suit.

All children need a certain level of aggression. Without it they are likely to become targets for other children. If your child gets angry it is nothing to worry about either. Anger and aggression become problems when a child attacks another child or adult or the child resorts to destroying things, throwing things and shouting violently. The main causes for these behaviors are frustration, attention seeking and gaining upper hands in matters. Frustration can have a number of triggers. For example it can be caused when a child has been told, it is time to stop playing, to carry out an activity the child does not wish to do or when the child cannot get something he wants.

There can be many  triggers for attention seeking. An example of this is where there is a younger sibling and the older child perceives the younger one is getting more attention than the older one. The older one in such case may become aggressive in order to grab attention. Such situation needs to be tackled carefully by devising proper parental approach so as to make the older one to feel equal care and attention that the younger one is getting.

Similarly, when a child is playing happily himself another child appears to join. If the first child does not want the company of the second child to play, the first child may show aggression towards the other child and may try and drive the second one away from the scene.

Aggressive behavior is most likely to be found in younger children. As their vocabulary evolves through the development of second signal system of spoken words, they are more likely to be able to demonstrate their dissatisfaction through words of shouting rather than hitting.

Controlling Aggressive Behavior – Top Tips

To help overcome problems of aggression in a child here are our top 10 tips:

  • Watch for triggers: Check out triggers that regularly cause aggressive behavior.It can be as simple as children regularly arguing and becoming aggressive over what television program they like to watch.
  • Be careful when you react: If you react to any problems at home by shouting or hitting out, your children will follow suit. Your child may learn from you that shouting and hitting  is normal and acceptable behavior. Therefore if they are in a situation that they find frustrating they are likely to react in a similar, aggressive manner.
  • Discuss appropriate and inappropriate behavior: If you have had a hard day, wait till there is a period of calm and discuss your child’s actions with them in a peaceful way. Explain the likely results of the child’s actions. For example explain that when they hit or bite it hurts and that other children may not play with them in future.
  • Give attention and show affection: All children need attention and affection. This is especially true for older children with younger siblings. A first born child gets used to a certain amount of attention and affection. They can find it very difficult to understand why they have to share their parents with a younger child. This can make them  feel rejected and isolated. Make time to pay them special attention.
  • Monitor TV programmes and plays:  Although the effect of television on children can be overstated, there could be a link between your child’s aggression and what the child watches on television screen. If he likes to watch programmes that include a level of violence then this can have a negative effect on the child’s behavior. n a similar way take note of the type of games your child tends to play. If children play lots of games with toy guns and swords or online games of a violent nature, it may be a good idea to try to change the balance of their play and introduce them to other games of calm nature as well.
  • Monitor the influence of friends:  If you have always lived in a quiet, peaceful environment then the introduction of a new friend can have an impact on the way your child behaves. For example if the child sees the new friend arguing with their parents or hitting other children, the child may start thinking this as acceptable behavior. In such situations it becomes necessary to end the new friendship.
  • Give warning time:  Most children get frustrated and can show aggression if they are busy playing and the parent suddenly tells them that it is time to stop and go. Although it is not always possible, try to give them a warning that it is nearly time to stop playing. This gives them the chance to get used to the idea and you are likely to get a more positive response.
  • Provide alternative toys and stimuli :  If you sense a child is getting bored or frustrated with what he is doing, be ready to suggest something different. A child who is trying to do something difficult to do, may run out of patience and lose his temper. Watch out for signs of such happenings. Whenever possible have some alternatives ready to be introduced for the child to do. This is especially the case when the child has learning difficulties or is simply bored to start doing home work or hates a particular subject at school.
  • Encourage child to discuss problems:  The more you talk to a child the easier the child will find it to establish its own vocabulary and rapport. Quietly explain to the child how he can resolve differences through discussion and negotiation rather than through violent behavior.
  • Praise good behavior:  Always take note of good acts done and achievements made by the child. When a child has behaved well  then praise the child sincerely. Such actions will make the child feel good and want to behave in a positive manner more often.

There will be times when no matter what you do your child still shows aggression. If this happens make sure you keep a close eye on your child when you think a flashpoint may arise. Be prepared to step in quickly and guide your child away from the situation as calmly as you can.

Whatever be the situation, it is advisable for parents of aggressive children never to consult psychiatrists, psychologists or hypnotists for remedy. Parents are the best therapists for aggressive preschoolers and small children. Psychiatrists are needed in cases where neurological problems are involved. Hypnotic suggestive therapy is advisable for persons above 15-18 and above age group. Why waste time on these sources when parents are the best therapists available at easy reach and access!

Dr. PKN

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Freelance writer and a 24/7 busy super mom to a bubbly, energetic 8 year old boy...Here I am trying to simplify this complicated yet beautiful mystery called motherhood with a zealous effort at reaching out to other moms like me...And yes! I strongly believe in Karma..So if you wish Life doesn't throw lemons at you...you know what to do! Enjoy your time at The Life Studio.

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