Creative Child

Top 5 Behaviors That Cause Parents to Lose Their Cool: #1 Aggression

(and What to Do About Them)
by Rebecca Eanes

So far, I've covered numbers 5 through 2 on the countdown: Back talk, tantrums, not listening, and whiningAt last we have made it to the number one most frustrating behavior that causes parents to lose their cool. Aggressive behavior.

Yes, nothing brings out our own aggression more than seeing our children be aggressive. I once witnessed a child hit her mother, and her mother immediately smacked the child's leg while yelling, "I told you it's not okay to hit!" I've also seen a child push over another child and the parent responded with a swat on the bottom, and I've heard a shouting match between mother and son in which neither wanted to lose dignity by backing down. In each of these 3 situations, who was exhibiting self-control? Nobody, unfortunately. When we meet aggression with aggression, we only reinforce that aggression is an acceptable response.

Therefore, the first rule to handling aggressive behavior in children is to discipline yourself, and frankly this is the hardest part for many parents who were raised being smacked, yanked around, yelled at, and otherwise handled aggressively. Those response patterns got wired into our brains, and we must work hard to overcome them if we want to parent consciously.

It is important to understand that children who are aggressive are children who are scared, hurt, or feeling disconnected. Young children lack the language skills and self-awareness to tell us what is wrong, and they may not even know or understand it themselves. Aggression in older children can be a cover-up of more vulnerable feelings; fear, guilt, anxiety, or shame.

For very young children, under age 4, keep it simple and to the point. Remove the aggressive child from the situation. Take the child to time-in (sitting next to you or on your lap) and state your limit. "I won't let you hit. That hurts. I'll keep you and everyone safe until you're feeling calm." The primary focus of the time-in is to get the child's brain regulated, because remember, when he's resorted to aggressive behavior, his brain is in that fight or flight mode, and he's not going to take in your lesson until he can reach his higher brain functions when he's calm.

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