Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How to Prevent Aggression in Children

Aggression in children is behavior that results in personal injury to another. This injury can either be psychological (in the form of verbal attacks) or physical.

Usually the child tends to be impulsive, easily irritable, immature, inarticulate about feelings and has difficulty taking criticism or frustration.

The Reasons behind Aggression

There is a saying that children do not do things that we want them to do, they do things that we do. They learned behavior by observing others such as parents, siblings and peers. Thus we have to make sure that we set a good example for them to follow. Our behavior must be consistent; we must do what we preached to them.

One reason why children show aggression is that they want to get their own way or the attention that they want.

Aggression can be due to the frustration of daily living especially when there may be some obstacles that prevent them from satisfying their needs. As I observed in my niece, at times she will compete with her two brothers for their mother's attention and if she failed to achieve what she wants, she will show some form of physical aggression towards her two brothers.

With the increase in exposure to mass media nowadays and without proper guidance from parents and adults, children can be easily influenced by the glamorize violence. Internet and computer games can also be the other channels where children are being exposed to violence. Recently I was conducting a training on Personal Leadership for school children of 13 years of age and I was asking them to list down some of their strengths. To my surprise, one of the boys told me that he is good in killing. I found out from further asking that he is talking about computer games. Children do not understand the difference between media and real life. Thus it is important that we give them proper guidance.

One common reason why children show aggression is when their emotional needs like the need for love and security, praise and recognition are not met. As what Mother Teresa said, "The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread." The need for love is especially so in children who are constantly seeking love and attention from their parents and adults. They are constantly seeking approval and attention from their parents for their behavior. Like adults, they love to receive praise and recognition from their parents and adults.

Knowing the reasons why children display aggression, let us take a look at how to prevent aggression in children.

The first and foremost thing we can do is to limit our childrens' exposure to violence in TV. Just as a coin has two sides, we can also use the violence on TV to show them the adverse consequences and non-violent alternatives. It is also good to watch what they are going through in internet. However, remember that we must also respect their privacy and personal space.

The other thing we can do is to consistently enforce rules that promote "love and respect" such as "no hitting" and "no teasing." The best way to enforce these rules is by doing it ourselves. We have to remember that our children are constantly observing what we are doing; so we really have to watch our behaviors. We have to react appropriately when we are upset. When our children misbehave, we must not react aggressively to them. When children are fighting, first separate them and then explain calmly to them why they cannot act the way they were acting.

Many children have an abundance of energy and without a proper channel to release the energy, the energy can show itself in the form of aggression whether intentional or unintentional. One good way to prevent aggression in children is to find a way to drain off the energy and aggressive impulses in them through physical exercises. Through proper supervision in the activities of children, we can discourage aggressive reactions.

Just as we must watch our behaviors, we must do our best to minimize marital strife where we exhibit a high level of arguing, conflict and aggression. When we are angry, we can model non-aggressive ways of expressing our anger and frustration like the use of compromise and negotiation.

What to do

Strengthen the loving feelings between you and your child by spending sufficient quality time alone with your child.

Reward good behavior. If you catch your child in good behavior, praise, encourage or reward your child for not reacting aggressively. Praise them for controlling themselves. Praise positive behaviors like sharing and using words instead of actions to express anger.

Teach alternatives. Educate your child to use other methods instead of using aggressive behaviors. Train your child to do self talk like "Talk, don't hit" and "Stop and think before you act." Always remind them that they can use words and that they could say what the problem was instead of hitting. They learned that talking was more effective than hitting.

It is important to understand what triggers the aggressive behaviors in children so that we can prevent it even before it happens. The best way of preventing aggression in children is by setting a good example for them to follow. Remember that children do not do things we ask them to do, they do things by observing what we are doing.

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