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Turning Your Child’s Aggression into Healthy Expressions

MAD BOYFrustration and anger often marks itself as shoving, hitting, and other aggressive behaviors in children. Teaching children how to handle their feelings reduces aggressive behaviors by giving them alternative openings. Children who display aggressive behaviors need support and direction to help them manage their behaviors and responses in different situations and environments. Although many children have occasional outbursts of anger and aggression, the children who have the support of parents who moderate and channel their children’s aggression towards healthy development will be able to operate with the skills to express their emotions and behaviors in a healthy way.

A child’s learning to find a healthy balance in aggressive behavior is probably the most difficult task of developing and growing up. According to developmental theory, aggressive urges or impulses are born into each child and are a critical aspect of the psychological life-force and of survival. During healthy development, these urges are typically expressed in various behaviors at different ages and, with the assistance and moderation from parents and outside influences, are gradually brought under the control of the individual.

1. Limits are part of lovingWhile there are no particular instructions, here are twelve suggestions from The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families that may help you provide your child with the guidance they need when dealing with aggressive emotions and behaviors:: Keep in mind that your child’s feeling loved builds the foundation for his acceptance of the influence you will provide as he grows. Putting reasonable boundaries on your child’s behavior is part of loving him, just as are feeding, playing and comforting.

2. Try to figure out what triggered your child’s aggressive behavior: Ask yourself what happened that set him off. Being rushed, abruptly controlled, being denied his wants, even being unable to do something he has tried to do often harvests feelings of frustration and anger that result in aggressive behavior.

3. Use what you know: Make use of what you know about your child’s temperament, preferences, and sensitivities.

4. Be clear: Tell your child what you want him to do or not do in a specific situation without giving a long lecture. It is important that you try to be clear about your displeasure. However, long lectures and grim predictions are usually counterproductive. It helps any young child who has earned the disapproval of a parent to be reminded that she is loved even when you don’t like the behavior.

5. Be a careful observer: When your child is playing with other children, keep an eye on the situation without hovering. What begins as playful scuffling or run and chase can quickly turn into a battle between children, and they may need a referee. However, there are times when you can let young children work things out among themselves depending on age.

6. Use redirection: When your child is displaying aggressive behavior, stop the behavior and give him something else to do. You may either suggest a new activity or perhaps guide him to a place where he can discharge aggressive feelings without doing harm to himself or another child.

7. Be a coach: Demonstrate how to handle a situation in which there is conflict between children. Children need specific suggestions and demonstrations from adults in order to learn that there are efficient ways to handle disagreements that are more acceptable than physical behavior.

8. Use language: If your child has language skills, help him explain what he is angry about.

9. Ask yourself if you are sending “mixed messages” to your child about his aggressiveness: If you say “Don’t hit” or “Be nice” while you are not so secretly enjoying your child’s aggressive behavior toward someone else, he will be confused, and such confusions tend to make it more difficult to develop self-control.

10. Be a role model: Keep in mind that parents are the most important role models for behavior and handling aggressing in a healthy manner. If family participates in arguing or physical fighting in the presence of your children, you can count on their picking it up. Home environments like these can be unsafe and unhealthy for everyone in the family.

11. Avoid spanking: Think about the disadvantages of physical punishment for your child. Children often provoke anger in adults when they aggravate, tease, or attack others. If your practice is to physically punish your child for such behavior, you need to think very carefully about what he learns from that.

12. Be patient; learning takes time: Your child’s learning to love and live in harmony with others comes about gradually and over many years. While living from day to day with the gratifications and frustrations of being a parent, it is also important to keep the long view in mind: there is a positive momentum to development. This forward thrust of your child’s growth and development actually works in favor of acquiring the ability to channel and productively use those aggressive energies.

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