How to Handle Aggression from Your Child
How to Handle Aggression from Your Child?
Many children will bite, scratch, kick, hit, and throw things unexpectedly at people. There are generally three things to check out right away:
- How you (and the people around you) react to the aggressive behavior. When hurt, most people react both outwardly (by yelling, making pained expressions on their face, pulling away quickly, among other things) and inwardly (getting mad, frustrated, annoyed, upset, or another kind of discomfort).
Many children will do behaviors specifically because of the reaction they get from the people around them. It can be very entertaining and interesting for some children to watch their parents gesticulate and have tremendous facial expression. You become like a cartoon, and most kids really like cartoons, specifically because of their exaggerated quality. We have found that whatever you react to in a child grows. Meaning, if your child bites, scratches, or kicks you and you make a big deal out of it, (s)he is more likely to continue the behavior, because it’s fun to watch you make a big deal out of anything. Once you’ve been bitten, scratched, etc, protect yourself from it happening again, in a calm and easy way. Do not try and discipline your child right now… you are most likely just encouraging the behavior by yelling or speaking with an irritated voice, etc.
Also, your internal reaction is vital as well. It’s not that you are supposed to fake feeling calm, but that you actually do feel calm. This is important because children can sense how the people around them feel emotionally. If you feel bad (or sad, angry, frustrated, etc.), this counts as a reaction too! And you very well may be encouraging the behavior by having a discomfort.
- Am I giving in to what (s)he wants when (s)he is aggressive towards me? The idea is to ask yourself, does the biting/scratching/kicking work to move me? Do I give him/her something because (s)he hurt me that I wouldn’t have otherwise given? If so, it’s important that you change that. As long as a child believes that hurting others works the best to get things, that will be what they resort to when nothing else is working. So instead, when your child communicates in a way that you want, have that work the best!
- Offer different physical stimulations if (s)he starts to get aggressive, or you see warning signs that it’s coming soon. For example, squeeze his/her hands and feet, if they allow it, and even massage the jaw. Some children get bursts of energy, which can be released by your squeezes. You can also offer other kinds of physical activity, like doing a chase game.
For more information about Aggressive Behaviors and Intense Energy, see Aggressive Behaviors & Intense Energy.