The truth is that it would not be right to “quote a prescription” for what to do when children have aggressive behavior. Every child is different; the context and the people in front of whom he expresses aggressive behavior differ and, at that moment, he tries to speak for some need for him.
We need to avoid treating our child’s aggression with aggression on our part, that is, to shout, punish, strike, intimidate. In this way, we teach the child that violence, any kind of violence, is acceptable to the one who has “power,” and we can use it to “solve” our problems.
When it comes to a manifestation of aggressive behavior in a public place, we need to either walk away with the child or imagine that we are alone with the child. The comments and critical or compassionate looks of the various passers-by can intensify our irritation and anxiety of exposure, which are also transmitted to the child. As a result, he finds it even more difficult to calm down.
At the time of the “explosion,” the point is to relieve the child and not indicate what the right behavior is. After all, at that moment, our words do not help much as the child can’t listen to us. Think of yourself in a moment of intense anger, where anyone close to you tries to “comfort” you with words like, “It’s absurd to be angry about something like this,” “Drink some water to calm down,” “That’s life, these things happen.” The only thing we might achieve is either we don’t hear any of this and remain tense, or our anger grows and erupts further. Something similar happens to children. So, what they need from us at the moment is initially to hold back their hits so that they don’t hurt themselves or those around them and stay calm by telling them tenderly or showing them with our attitude that “I’m here, I love you, but I don’t want anyone to get hurt. I’ll be there for you.”
It is also useful at that time to talk about what everyone can experience, e.g., “It hurts me what you do” or “I don’t want M. to get hurt. Use your words to tell her what you feel” or “If you’re angry, I’d rather you tell me in words than hit me.” Physical relief is essential and necessary for all of us, but it can also be done in moderation on inanimate objects, e.g., to hit a pillow, sing loudly, dance, paint his anger, make a shout, etc. Of course, the best example is us, and we should first use such ways to defuse our intense emotions and our aggression so that the child can see us and then discuss the ways that suit him to express himself and calm down. Once he’s relaxed, we can talk about what’s happening to him and what prompted him to aggressive behavior if he wants and needs to. The most important thing is that we accept children’s feelings even if we cannot explain or justify them many times.
When two children fight, we can intervene with humor, e.g., by sportscasting, singing the points where blows are forbidden, etc., immediately giving a fun dimension to the fighting game that was made due perhaps to some disagreement. However, if the fight between them can lead to harm, we must intervene immediately in a more drastic way to preserve their physical integrity.
In any case, we need to recognize the need behind aggressive behavior and observe what happens in interaction with our child, what has changed in his daily life, what he needs from us, what “presses his buttons,” and above all, how we can help him have a healthy relationship with those around him but mainly with himself.
Read part 1 here.