Parents are often perplexed by their aggressive child. They may not know why the child behaves as he does and they may also not know how to help change that behavior.
If your child is aggressive – on occasion, sometimes or frequently – consider the following tips:
There are “Aggressive” Genes
Those children who are frequently aggressive may have inherited “aggressive” genes – or at least, the kind of genes that trigger aggressive responses. For instance, some kids have impulsivity – an inherited trait that leads to acting quickly and without considering the consequences of the action. Impulsive kids may grab toys from others, hit or push others who bother them, destroy property in anger and so on. They do it all without thinking of what’s going to happen next. Another inherited tendency is a strong-willed nature. Some kids are easy-going – they’re flexible and difficult to ruffle. But the strong-willed bunch may need things to go their way – or else. This stubborn nature can lead youngsters to feel threatened when things don’t happen the way they want them to and this sense of threat is associated with the fight-or-flight reaction in the body and the “fight” part of the chemical reaction often leads to aggressive behaviors. For instance, a child may want a book that his brother is holding in his hands. He asks for it repeatedly and the brother won’t give it. Because this one has a hard time backing down, giving up, walking away and finding something else to do – because he HAS to have what he WANTS – the fight-or-flight chemistry gets released and he lunges at his brother, shoving him down and grabbing the book that he wants. A “hot temper” is also an inherited trait. Some kids have virtually no temper while others are quickly and/or intensely triggered. The latter bunch may have trouble controlling those feelings and often end up behaving in more aggressive ways.
Adults who are aggressive have responded well to certain psychotropic medications like SSRI’s. This class of medicine not only relieves depression and anxiety, but it also seems to help tame the aggressive tendency. A truly aggressive child – one who is being expelled from school after school because of an inability to control himself – should be evaluated for medical treatment. However, kids who are able to function well can also benefit from help for inherited aggressive tendencies. In this latter case, many kids will respond very well to the harmless naturopathic preparation called Bach Flower Remedies. In this group of 38 water-based remedies, quite a few are appropriate for taming aggression including Vine (for violent aggression, strong will), Impatiens (for high strung aggressive behavior), Holly (for aggression that occurs due to feeling insulted or mistreated) and Cherry Plum (for aggression that involves complete loss of control). Consult a Bach Flower Practitioner to prepare an individually tailored mixture of remedies for your youngster or read more about the remedies and make them yourself. Your child’s aggression will likely wane over time, as he or she takes the remedies. The remedies never subdue a person or change their character – they leave all the strong points in place! They simply help clear out troubled feelings.
Monkey See Monkey Do
Children who witness or experience aggression are much more likely to copy it. If you are currently using anger as a parenting tool, you need to be aware that it definitely increases aggressive behavior in kids. Read “Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice” in order to learn a variety of alternative non-angry strategies for getting kids to listen. It’s important that you don’t yell, physically punish or otherwise demonstrate aggressive behaviors. Moreover, your behavior toward your parenting partner (spouse, ex-spouse, etc.) needs to be completely unaggressive as well. Even road rage should be avoided! Children won’t copy you exactly – they’ll copy the general style. If you use aggression in your life, chances are very good that your kids will too.
Treat Aggressive Behavior Non-Aggressively
You need to help your child stop his aggressive behavior. When he is out of control, make sure you are very much IN control. Keep your voice quiet. Speak slowly. Don’t say much. Let the child know that there will be a consequence for his behavior, using the structure of the 2X-Rule outlined in “Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.” Do not ignore aggressive behavior. Everyone in your house is entitled to live in a safe, respectful environment, including yourself and your other children. Make this clear to the aggressive child. Aggression must always be disciplined in the home – just as it is disciplined in the society at large. No one is allowed to destroy property or hurt others without facing legal consequences. Similarly, there needs to be a system in place in the home where unacceptable behavior is consequenced. “The Relationship Rule” (see “Raise Your Kids..”) teaches children how to express their upset in respectful ways. Follow the five steps of teaching this rule to your whole family. Look for signs of progress – less aggression, better communication and self-control.
If normal, calm discipline and careful positive reinforcement for desirable, non-violent behavior, does not stop your child’s aggressive behavior, seek professional guidance. A mental health practitioner, family counselor or parent educator can offer you a variety of tools to encourage non-aggressive behavior and discourage aggressive behavior in your child. If you employ these strategies without success, take your child to a mental health practitioner for assessment and treatment