Are you shocked by your child’s sudden aggressive outbursts? Are you apprehensive about how to deal with their extreme behavior? Parents keep wondering from where their kids learn such violent behaviors. Well, aggressions are common in kids as their cognitive, verbal and social-emotional skills are fast developing that push them for independence. However, frustrations and tantrums, if left unattended, can turn into defiance and aggression in children that negatively impacts their life. Severe aggressive behavior problems result in peer rejection, academic problems and loneliness.
Aggression is not an inherent behavior in children. It is rather shaped by negative environmental consequences that stir up their emotions. Kids lack verbal skills and these meltdowns are expressions of their displeasure. By tweaking undesirable events, parents can regulate the emotions of an aggressive child.
Identifying the underlying reasons for such aggressions is essential to address them effectively. Such aggressions stem from social issues, environmental stress, psychological problems, physical problems, trauma, imitating or idealizing faulty characters.
In this current digitalized world, children are saturated with information galore. Though an essential means of learning, too much screen time is adversely affecting kids with unwanted knowledge. Parents need to avert their exposure to media violence, dreadful graphic images and frightening facts. Constant supervision and censoring are hence essential to process the information conveyed to the young, unadulterated minds.
“I can still recount the time when my 8-year-old daughter questioned me about the 2012 gruesome rape attack when its footage was repeatedly telecasted. Explaining such a sensitive matter required honest efforts and neutral explanation of the event that would not threaten my baby.”
It is your solemn duty to provide the platform where your kids can come up to you and disclose their emotional turmoil. Keep an update on the information they gather on the event and their perceptions about it to help them feel safe.
Remember, it’s okay to be an angry kid sometimes or get frustrated at times but if it gets frequent and results in kicking, hitting, biting, destroying things, hurling verbal abuse or causing physical and emotional pain to others then it must be addressed immediately.
Parents, first, need to understand the types of aggression resulting in their children. This enables in developing strategies to deal with them and train kids with the required coping mechanisms. Here, I’ve provided a few real-life scenarios for better understanding and ways to overcome them.
Passive aggression: When angry kids begin to express their feelings indirectly in a negative way, it results in passive aggression. It’s a nonverbal behavior characterized by resentment, annoyance, irritation and disappointment. Such non-violent tantrums, minimal in nature, can be ignored at times. But, if it escalates with time, then it requires disciplining as it can lead to emotional abuse and impaired relationships.
Examples of Passive Aggression
Every parent wishes to give the best and shower their kids with affection but that should not deter them from disciplining their aggressive child or a wrong behavior. Over-indulgence, pampering, setting wrong examples and encouraging misbehavior can mislead kids. Precise parental and child roles are important to help children navigate their path, ensuring positive nurturing.
Case 1: Dhruv, a 6-year-old, inevitably ignores his parents’ instructions. His parents, thinking it to be a pleasing childish behavior, disregarded it for years. But now, it has become his innate nature. It is also reflecting on his behavior in school.
Solution: In this case, parents need to impose self-control, remain firm and discipline their child to deter misbehavior. Love your kids but don’t spoil them. Quite often we hear parents say – we have to give him whatever he demands, else he screams and refuses to eat, I know that she is making a mistake but somehow can’t say no to her, I fear if I scold or discipline my child, it will spoil our relationship. Well, these encourage aggressive behavior problems in children.
Remember parents - It’s essential to understand the difference between ‘providing the best’ and ‘over-indulgence.’
Case 2: Yash had a fight with neha, a kid in the neighborhood but lied to his parents. Without interrogating, his parents fought with neha’s parents and rebuked the neighborhood children.
Solution: Here, instead of the parents getting aggressive, the kid must be instructed to consider the situation, understand the other person’s feelings and make amends with the victim. Encourage your child to respond calmly and resolve your quarrels peacefully at home and outdoors, thus setting apt examples for your child to positively handle a situation.
Case 3: Every time Priya tried expressing her views, took personal decisions, showed any resentment or tried to self-indulge in new activities, her dominating parents would shut her down and scorn her. It turned her into a passive aggressive child.
Solution: There is a difference in disciplining and discouraging kids as in this case. Parents must encourage children, understand their thought process and provide correct solutions when children go wrong. Let your kids explore the world, let them take up challenges, let them learn from their mistakes, it will make them confident. Just provide the correct guidance and teach the right values. Instruct your child but don’t abuse them.
Non-destructive aggression: These are unplanned, impulsive aggressions that are not meant to harm or hurt people. While playing outdoors or at home or if denied something, kids often resort to sudden outbursts. Such aggressive behavior problems can be a response to a need, anger or fear or a result of imitating an adult or a TV character. If it gets frequent, look for its reasons and train the child self-control.
Examples of Non-Destructive Aggression
There are different styles of parenting – over-indulgent, authoritarian, permissive, over-critical, uninvolved and authoritative. Parents, unknowingly, sometimes opt for incorrect parenting methods for varied reasons – overcompensation for being away, the anxiety of outcomes, inability to be firm with kids, fulfill all the needs that they yearned for, high expectations etc. The reasons can be different but they negatively affect the emotional growth of kids during their formative years or even cause aggressive behavior problems. Let’s look at some cases here:
Case 1: Parul and Aditya dearly love their two sons. Saying ‘no’ to their kids is heartbreaking for them. They indulge their children with anything they ask for or love -junk foods, late night movies, ice-creams even when sick, toys and expensive gifts, lavish lifestyle. They have spoilt them with all. With time, it has now become a habit and any refusal or disciplining gets them frustrated, turns them hostile and angry.
Solution: Don’t cave in to your child’s aggressive behavior, no matter how much you love your child or how defiant he gets. A strict ‘NO’ to any disobedience or violent behavior must be enforced and their limits must be clearly explained. Never ever encourage their rough behavior, else children can get manipulative.
Case 2: Merry, an 8-year-old, does not understand ‘no’ and her boundaries. When at home, school or at other people’s homes, she casually picks up things that aren’t hers, takes things from the fridge, cupboards, shelves that do not belong to her and never seeks permission before using them.
Solution: First look for reasons for such aggressive behavior problems. Instill self-control and self-discipline at the primary stage of childhood, it is essential. It’s not instinctive in children, rather it needs to be inculcated with regular training. In this case, the kid is not aware of her limits and boundaries. Kids need to be trained to keep their emotions, impulsive nature, outbursts and feelings under control. Encourage and reward (not in kind) a good behavior, train them to seek permission and to analyze a situation before reacting.
Case 3: Vicky’s parents have too high expectations from him. Being an average kid, he faces tough competition from his sister and cousins. His parents make constant comparisons, insult him for his failures and ridicule him in front of all. He is now constantly mocked and neglected by his siblings. These have turned him into an aggressive child. Perceiving it as a threat to his identity, Vicky often tries unfair means, cheats, lies and makes false excuses to impress people. To seek attention from others, he makes false pretensions and creates fake stories or even resorts to physical fight when cornered.
Solution: Stop comparing, you are unknowingly instigating your child, breeding jealousy and stressing him. Your constant disapproval is hurtful that develops low self-esteem and social shyness in children. Realize his potentials, encourage him positively, provide support and help him cope-up with his weaknesses. Set realistic benchmarks and build his confidence. By comparing, you are only limiting him; who knows he might be capable of more than that.
Destructive aggression: destructive or hostile aggression are purposeful acts to physically or emotionally hurt others. Such acts are calculated, planned and can take forms of physical violence, non-verbal or verbal hostility, property destruction, abusive behavior, bullying, teasing, hitting etc. Such extreme behaviors are potentially harmful and require immediate attention and anger management for kids.
With the drastic change in lifestyle, parents are busier in their work while kids are more engaged in themselves. This void and absence of parental guidance have a negative impact on kids. Moreover, parents are the first role models for their children who tend to replicate their parents and try to emulate their behavior. Lead by correct example and help your child imbibe good behavioral qualities in life. Let’s have a quick look at some common cases around us:
Case 1: Reena and Atul are very stringent about disciplines. Even for minor mistakes and misdemeanors the kids are severely punished. If found guilty, they rebuke, ridicule and hit their children. Eventually, it developed aggressions in the kids who learnt that physical punishment and yelling are the end measures for every situation.
Solution: parents should stay calm and firm, remember he is the kid here. To discipline an angry child, you don’t need to adopt authoritarian parenting strategies and get aggressive. Reprimand extreme behaviors but remain composed and set strict rules. It will set an example for the kid to follow that will help control his defiant behavior. Sometimes, deliberately ignore impulsive behaviors but explain their mistakes firmly.
Case 2: Shreya and Sunil often receive complaints from neighbors, schools, their friends and family people about their kid’s misbehavior. They however, choose to ignore them, being busy in their office work and family responsibilities. They often go for outings, leaving their children at home to watch TV and play. Being given too much freedom, the kid’s mischievous behaviors have now escalated and turned into major aggressive behavior problems.
Solution: parenting is not easy. It needs patience, understanding and opting accurate measures to comprehend the underlying problems to resolve it. Spend quality time with your kids, monitor their behavior, notice their habits and personality that they develop. Communicate with them and condemn any misbehavior but don’t get stringent. Over permissive parenting can be dangerous that hinders the kid’s ability to modulate their emotions. Be a responsible parent.
Case 3: Preeti and her husband openly communicate and discuss every matter, unconscious of their children’s presence. They even engage in verbal abuses and physical fights in front of their children. But, now they often see their children using abusive words, fighting, displaying aggressive behavior, hitting, yelling and being rude.
Solution: think before you talk, when around kids. Choose your words aptly, check your behavior and monitor your child’s conduct. Avoid indulging in ineffective ways of communication, using abusive language and displaying unmannerly behavior. It leads to building aggressive behavior problems in children.
Well, these are just a few common instances. There can be endless such cases that, gradually, can lead to aggression in children. The responsibility lies in the parents to explore the reasons causing such meltdowns and look for solutions.
We have considered a few complex situations and the standards of conduct to deal with them. Now let’s learn about some techniques for anger management for kids that will help them express, suppress and calm their minds.
No matter how challenging it may seem, handling an aggressive child requires persistence and several behavioral approaches. Your love and willingness to try different techniques can help nurture a grumpy kid into a joyful one. And why not, if the end result is a happy home and a cheerful child, it’s all worth the effort.
Post your valuable comments about the article and share your challenging experiences and essential inputs in training and nurturing a crabby baby into a bundle of joy.