Many parents don’t want their child to be aggressive and yet it’s important for children to be able to express their anger by being able to manage it in ways that no one will be hurt. The child should be able to regulate his aggression and substitute a hurtful action for a reasonable one.
Here are twelve parenting strategies for managing aggression in very young children:
- LIMITS ARE PART OF LOVING. Putting reasonable restrictions on your child’s behavior is part of loving him, just as feeding, comforting, playing, and responding to his wishes.
- TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TRIGGERED YOUR CHILD’S AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR. Your behavior or that of another person. Ask yourself if he is overtired or not feeling well physically, or being rushed, abruptly handled, or being denied something he wants, or unable to do something with a toy, or physically.
- USE WHAT YOU KNOW. Once you know your child’s needs and personality it will be easier to figure out what caused the aggressive behavior. For example, if you know that he is irritable or ill-humored for the first hour of the day or gets very out of sorts when tired or hungry, you won’t pick that time to ask a great deal in the way of control.
- BE CLEAR. It’s important to tell your child what you want him to do or not do in a specific situation. Your tone should convey the message that you are in charge. If he hits his baby sister the punishment should be one that is appropriate for his age. A three-year old should be told that if he hits his baby sister it hurts. That you don’t like the behavior is your most effective message. A parent should remind the child that he is loved even though you don’t like the behavior.
- BE A CAREFUL 0BSERVIOR. When your young child is playing with other children, keep a eye on the situation but try not to hover. Young children need a referee when playing moves into a battle. There are times when children work out things for themselves.
- USE REDIRECTION. When your child is being aggressive in ways you don’t like, stop the behavior and give him something else to do. Suggest and help start a new activity or guide him to a place where he can discharge aggressive feelings. This special place could have pillows either to rest on or punch where he is told that he can use the pillows to get rid of his aggression or calm down in a friendly environment.
- BE A COACH. Children need specific suggestions and demonstrations from adults in order to learn that there are effective ways to handle disagreements that are more acceptable than physical attack and retaliation. For example, If your child is old enough , you can teach him a few words to use in order to avoid or settle an conflict. A 2-year-old can be helped to hold on to a toy and say “no”
or “mine” instead of always pushing or crying when another child tries to take a toy.
- USE LANGUAGE. If your child has language skills, help him explain what he is angry about. If you are able to guess and he cannot say, do it for him, such as, I guess you’re mad because you can’t go to play with Johnny I know how you feel, but it’s too late to go today” (or whatever the reason is).
- 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. Children have a tendency to imitate their parent’s behavior. They learn about social skills from them. If they see that someone in the family uses aggression in a unhealthy way instead of a healthy way they will learn the wrong way to react to social conflict. Home environments that are in constant chaos with people screaming at each other and using physical force can be unsafe and unhealthy for everyone.
11.AVOID SPANKING. Spanking a child sends the wrong message, that the way to solve problems is to use physical force.
12.BE PATIENT; LEARNING TAKES TIME. Your child’s learning to love and live in reasonable harmony with others comes about only gradually and over many years. It’s important to understand the developmental behavior of children at the different levels so that you know what to expect and don’t think that your child is uncivilized. You will understand that he will eventually learn when to use aggression and when not to with your guidance and love.