Some kids are naturally gentle and empathetic, remaining that way throughout their lives. However, many children are easily provoked and some are chronically impulsive and reactive – grabbing what they want without regard to the feelings or desires of others or displaying their displeasure in dramatic or belligerent ways. Small children who hurt others are usually considered to be “aggressive” while bigger kids and teens who use physical aggression are considered to be “violent.” In all cases, parental guidance is necessary; all children have to learn to control their impulses and find positive and acceptable ways of getting their needs met, expressing feelings and interacting with others.
If your child is lashing out aggressively, consider the following tips:
What is Violence?
Violent behavior is any behavior that uses force to overpower others, causes pain to self or others, or causes destruction of physical property. The use of profanity and discriminatory language, extreme temper tantrums, threats, meanness and cruelty, vandalism, physical and sexual assault are all examples of violent behavior to others. Self-directed violence is any form of aggressive self-harm such as slapping, cutting or burning oneself.
What Causes Violent Behavior?
There are many possible causes for violent behavior, including genetic and environmental factors. For some, physical reactivity is just a short phase in their development while for others, it arises out of an enduring inherited disposition to poor impulse control. If your child is chronically violent, consider the possibility of conditions like Conduct Disorder (CD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), substance abuse and even psychosis. Ask your doctor for direction.
It should be noted that a child from a loving home can be very aggressive just as a child from an aggressive home can be mild mannered. Indeed, violent behavior can be both learned and unlearned. Although completely “normal” children can be violent at times, frequent aggressive behavior always indicates a problem that requires parental, and often professional, attention. As previously mentioned, a mental health condition may be at the root of problems with aggression; once the condition is properly assessed and treated, aggressive behavior diminishes – when frequent or serious aggression occurs in children over the age of 5, a professional assessment is important (pre-schoolers have a higher rate of natural aggression; professional assessment would only be indicated if the child’s behavior interfered with his/her social life, school placement or normal functioning in the home). Some physical conditions can also lead to aggressive behavior. For this reason, any child who regularly behaves aggressively should be assessed by a physician. In some cases, violent behavior is modeled in the home or community of a child, not only providing an unhealthy model, but also failing to provide a healthy one.
Other Factors Contributing to Violent Behavior
Media can also play a role in the development of aggressive and even violent behaviors in some children. Computer games, T.V. and movies today are more violent than they used to be, with scenes depicting aggression presented in a very graphic fashion. Watching violent images tends to desensitize children to the impact of aggressive behavior. The repetitive imagery also has a programming effect on the mind, helping to inculcate patterns of aggression.
Certain parenting styles have been linked to incidents of violence among young people. Specifically, authoritarian parenting – cold and punitive – can increase aggressive behavior in kids. Authoritative parenting, on the other hand, which is warm and loving but sets appropriate boundaries and limits, DECREASES aggression and violence and contributes to health emotional development (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for an example of authoritative parenting). In helping kids manage upset and angry emotions, the use of Emotional Coaching is important. Emotional Coaching is the skill of naming a child’s feelings; it has the effect of soothing upset emotions but most importantly, it contributes to the development of higher emotional intelligence. High E.Q. increases the child’s ability to “self-soothe” (regulate emotional distress) and lessens violent tendencies (see John Gottman’s book no deposit online casino play games
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child for more details).
But violence among young people may also be linked to weak parental control and what is called the permissive parenting style. When misbehavior does not get noticed and/or properly addressed by parents, children may become apply less self-control. Specifically, parents who do not take serious steps to stop a young child’s aggressive behaviors in the home – hitting, spitting, biting, hurting people, throwing and/or destroying property – should not be surprised if the child maintains those kinds of behaviors throughout adolescence and longer. In other words, children do not necessarily just outgrow violent behaviors that persist beyond age 6 or 7. Of course, parents can NEVER use aggression to help a child learn to refrain from aggression. Only calm, fair, kind and firm parenting techniques can be employed. Parenting books and courses may offer a wealth of reasonable interventions for childhood aggression. Nonetheless, if parents have tried but failed to curb these kinds of behaviors in a young child, they should definitely enlist professional help. The earlier the child is stopped from engaging in violent behavior, the easier it is to “reprogram” his or her brain for healthier and more appropriate communication skills.
When a child or a teen exhibits violent behavior that youngster is suffering. Happy, well-adjusted kids aren’t violent. The child may have been born with a predisposition to aggression but that vulnerability may be linked to a mood disorder or personality disorder – neither of which predispose the youngster to peace of mind and happiness. Both psychotropic and alternative interventions can effectively address biological factors contributing to aggression. Consider speaking to a naturopathic practitioner in addition to your medical doctor. In most cases, counseling, anger management therapies and other cognitive-behavioral interventions will also be an important part of complete healing.
When a child is otherwise functioning very well and his or her aggression seems to be a temperamental, inborn tendency and acts of aggression are rare enough or mild enough NOT to significantly interfere with his or her functioning or well-being, an intervention to seriously consider is Bach Flower Therapy. Bach Flower remedies can often turn off violent tendencies and are certainly worth a try even when violence is a serious problem (along with other interventions in this latter case). Sometimes they are all that is needed while at other times, the remedies may be a helpful part of a more comprehensive strategy for aggression and violence that includes one or more treatment modality (such as psychotherapy, psychotropic medication, naturopathic interventions, self-regulation strategies, etc.). Since Bach Flowers do not interact with any other substance, they can be used safely along with any medicine, herb, or nutritional program. For violent behavior, it is best to consult a Bach Flower Practitioner, but if you can’t find one, of the 38 Bach Flower remedies you should consider Vine (for strong-will, stubborn and bully-type behaviors), Holly (for aggression that is triggered by jealousy, hurt and insult), Impatiens (for anger arising out of nervous tension and emotional strain) and Chestnut Bud (for violence that is impulsive and unresponsive to normal discipline strategies). All of these can be mixed in one treatment bottle (see the article on Bach Flower Remedies on this site).
On the other hand, the child may have started off with perfectly healthy genes and later developed emotional problems due to stressful life circumstances. Family dysfunction, conflicted homes or high conflict divorce, chronic learning problems, abuse, assault, victimization and trauma may all lead to a build up of anger and stress that may be acted out in aggression. If your child has been through hard times, professional counseling can help ease emotional distress as well as provide appropriate communication and anger-management skills. In addition, do whatever you can to improve your own emotional balance, communication skills, stress management skills and anger management skills so as to provide the best possible model for your child. This is important even when you have no role whatsoever in your child’s violent approach to life. A consistent healthy model can only help the situation and in some cases, it is all that you can provide.