It is common for growing kids to express themselves aggressively especially when they find it difficult to express their emotions through words. Also many a times aggression is not deliberate, in fact it’s often a child’s way of asserting him/herself. Parents can definitely calm down their aggressive children with the help of some tried and tested methods. Here are ten tips for dealing with aggressive behaviour in children.
Recognise the reasons for aggression: If a child’s aggression is often directed towards the parents, then according to child psychologists it is most likely that the kids are unable to express their feelings of helplessness, anxiety or anger in a right manner to their parents. Hence they do it with aggression and are most likely to hit, push, kick, and yell. The best way to help them is to make them realise to express their emotions through words and not through aggression.
Allow children to calm: Often when children become aggressive, they hardly listen to anyone around them. In this situation, instead of spanking them, just stay calm and allow them to cool off. This way parents can control the situation and will be able to speak to the kids in a better way. After your child has calmed down from a temper tantrum, speak to him/her gently. Ask him/her what was bothering and why. The kids need to be taught how to label and manage feelings such as anger.
Manage own anger: With aggressive children, a major challenge faced by parents is controlling their own temper. Parents should be patient and control their temper in order to handle their kids’ aggressive behaviour. According to child psychologists, aggressive kids are more likely to calm down when parents exhibit a calm and patient demeanour. The kids will learn to manage their anger by observing how parents manage their own.
Instill self-control in your children: Kids do not have the ability to control strong emotions. Parents should guide their children to develop the ability to keep negative feelings under control and to think before aggressive expression of emotions. Parents need to guide kids to learn how to manage his/her emotions, control their impulses and express their anger only with words.
Avoid encouraging toughness: Even today in many families across India aggressiveness is encouraged — especially among the male children. Parents often use the word “tough” to pay a compliment to a child. This can send wrong message to children causing them to think they can become aggressive in order to win their parents approval. Also, these children will exhibit the same behaviour in their school or elsewhere. Hence parents should be careful in encouraging such attitude in the kids.
Teach your child to empathise: If your child hits, bites or kicks, calmly ask him/her how he/she would feel in case someone did the same to them. Prompt them to give it some thought. Make them think in case their friend at school or sibling at home misbehaved such as kicked, bit or yelled at them how would they feel and how would they respond or deal with such a situation.
Introduce them to a creative outlet: Encourage children to do things he/she enjoys — drawing, cycling, swimming, and reading. This will help the kids refocus his/her thoughts away from anger or any other kind of negative feeling. Kids can let off some anger by stomping their feet, running, cycling, pounding on clay or even dancing around. Extracurricular activities are a best way to stay positive and happy.
Keep kids away from violent shows: Children who are highly exposed to aggressive or violent behaviour on the television/computer games or by their parents at home tend to be more aggressive. If your child is consistently aggressive, limit his/her exposure to those shows. Reinforce the message by choosing storybooks and TV shows that promote kindness, laughter and good morals. Also, parents should watch their behaviour towards their partners. Any negative behaviour of the parents could be easily imitated by the children.
Verbal alternatives: Parents should offer their kids verbal alternatives to their rage: such as count from one hundred to number one backwards until anger dies down. Sing loudly and run around the house until they are able to get a hold of their feelings. Read loudly until they are able to understand what is actually bothering them. Parents should begin a one to one conversation with their children from an early age. This will help them develop a strong bond with their children who will feel more comfortable sharing their emotions.
Make a house rule: Make a house rule to the kids that aggression is not an acceptable form of behaviour in the house or elsewhere. Also parents should take constant feedback from the teachers about their kid’s behaviour at school. In case parents are not able to handle it then take the teacher’s help in making the child realise the importance of expressing his/her emotions through words. Irrespective of all efforts, if aggressive behaviour still lasts, it is better to consult a child psychologist who will definitely be able to help your child.
Also read: Tackling anti-social behaviour in children