Here’s a parenting question I get often: Should I condemn or condone quitting an activity? I was fortunate enough to have this exact conversation with Jen Zamzow, PhD for her Good Housekeeping article “It’s Okay to Let Kids Quit Things.” And this is what we discussed…
Heightened aggression in children, characterized by intense anger outbursts, defiance, and physical attacks, impacts children’s social interactions, academic progress, and emotional growth. Crucially addressed in early childhood, this issue, if unchecked, can result in lifelong anti-social or mental health issues.
Understanding the triggers and implementing effective strategies for such aggression is vital, requiring the collaboration of parents, teachers, and mental health professionals. This blog explores these triggers and offers strategies for mitigating such behaviors, thus improving children’s quality of life and contributing to healthier communities.
Unpacking the Triggers of Aggression
Unraveling the triggers of aggression in children is a complex task that requires a nuanced understanding of individual behaviors and broader environmental factors. By unpacking these triggers, we can move beyond simplistic views of aggression as purely “bad behavior” and start to understand the underlying causes, paving the way for more effective and compassionate interventions.
Story: My strong willed 8 year old was diagnosed with anxiety and displays this with anger. Last March I got diagnosed with cancer and needed surgery. His anxiety hit the moon. He’s been acting out by throwing a ball at kids, stepping on their feet, throwing sand, yelling, etc. I practiced your principles of empathy, and he was able to tell me about a kid teasing him for not climbing the rock wall. I would never have found this out had I not set aside his behavior and my problem, used compassion and empathy, and listened. Yesterday when I picked him up, he came running into my arms and cried and cried really, really hard. WOW! He hasn’t cried like that in years. He cried the whole way home and continued at home and let me just sit there with him. I used empathy when needed and let him say all these horrible things about a kid who’s been bullying him. Bingo, I got to the root of his behavior, went right past those weeds. I did my best to
It’s really easy to get down on yourself for behaving regretfully toward your child. What’s hard is forgiving yourself because you’re human and making amends.
Repairing mistakes is one of the best skills you can teach your child. Isn’t this what we want them to be able to do? Repairing, apologizing, owning up and being accountable for your behavior is the sign of a strong, responsible person—exactly what you want your child to become.
But it’s hard for many parents to own mistakes and make repairs. When you have learned through your childhood that apologizing, showing vulnerability by admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness, it is hard to do it with your child. It can feel like admitting defeat, losing authority, giving in. But the opposite is true.
Coming down off a righteous pedestal to apologize, to say I see it differently now and wish I hadn’t said what I did, to admit wrong-doing, is not backing down or being inconsistent and wishy-washy. On the contrary, it is the powerful thing to do.
Q. My kids don’t listen to me—ever. I end up shouting till I’m hoarse, even when I’m in the same room. I didn’t bargain for having to go through this every time I need them to come to a meal, get ready for school or even go for a playdate or something else they love. I would have been grounded and spanked if I didn’t become a yes-man to my parents with everything they said. I don’t do that, but I do expect at least some respect and cooperation. They seem to think they can be anyway they want with me.
A. Next time you have that mental reaction of “They never listen”, intentionally switch your focus and think about what they’re doing. Are they engaged in something (whether or not you approve) that is holding their attention?
When children are focused on something the rest of the world goes away. So instead of taking yourself down the rabbit hole of “never listening”, add in at least 3 or 4 minutes per child to the process of gaining their attention.
If you want your children to become respectful, responsible people, you must model that behavior. With poor boundaries, this is hard to do.
Contrary to popular opinion, boundaries and limits are very different from one another, although many use the words interchangeably. The word boundary is often used to refer to setting limits. Kids “push boundaries” or they won’t “listen to the boundaries”. It is the rare parent who understands the true meaning of boundaries. And it’s no wonder. Many of us were not brought up with them.
When we say someone doesn’t have good boundaries, we are talking about a dividing line between two people and their personal space and responsibilities.
When people blame others or situations for how they feel or for their life circumstances, they have crossed that line, taking no responsibility for themselves. They have poor boundaries.
Good boundaries are essential for a family to work cooperatively as a team.
Limits are what you impose to keep your children safe and behaving appropriately. Limits are parameters you set around your children’s behavior using your parental
Q. My son is 11 and an only child. His first reaction to everything is negative, a sigh, makes a face and moans. This is the reaction to every meal (even stuff he likes), an outing he likes or even just being asked to watch tv with us. When we try to do fun family stuff he moans. Nearly every time he enjoys the activity and tells us afterwards, when we ask, that he loved it. He just wants to be playing on his iPad or watching TV on his own in his room. He says these activities take time from his gaming. I get frustrated because I plan these family activities around what he likes to do and yet he moans about going. Then it causes a row because no matter what we do he never gets excited or happy.
A. Constant negativity is very wearing. Especially if you take it personally. What I mean by that is: Does your frustration stem from thinking you have failed to raise a happy kid? Do you think his negativity is your
You come home at the end of the day. Maybe you’ve picked up one child from daycare and another from a playdate. Your tired, you don’t have anything prepared for dinner, and you long for some space.
And your kids go at it. Even if its loud fun screaming, it’s draining. But if it’s fighting or demanding, you just don’t have any dealing power. You end up shouting for them to be quiet, to just get along and stop bothering you. Of course you know that won’t work. They will come at you harder. But you can’t even think straight. You need quiet and time.
You know that, but your kids don’t. This is why parenting is the hardest job on the planet. You must continually twist your perspective to understand what your kids understand. Not many parents do that. You tell them what to do—or else….
The expectations on your kids, the messages they hear is they should know better, they should be more considerate of your needs, they listen and do what you say.
What you are
We all know what it’s like to get our buttons pushed. It feels like an attack and a flooding of emotion. We tend to retaliate automatically—it’s that fight, flight or freeze reaction. Typically, we lay blame on our children for doing the pushing or ourselves for being inadequate. But seldom do we do anything to change this often damaging dynamic because it feels beyond control.
You’ve tried everything, right? Everything to get your children to change. But those buttons are our responsibility, not our children’s. They wouldn’t be pushing them if there were no button to push. Some parents, for instance, have an immediate reaction to being called “stupid”. Others do not. Why? Because it has to do with your individual past. Yes, your child needs to be accountable for her behavior, but if your button is pushed, you will react, teaching her the power of what did the pushing—calling you “stupid”, talking back, resisting, not listening, whatever triggers you. And so it continues.
Q. My 8 year old son is constantly talking back to me and using vulgar language. I tell him that is not acceptable, and he keeps doing it. He argues and doesn’t listen to authority—my authority anyway. He’s fine at school. Teachers love him. When I was young, I would have been smacked if I said half of what he does. I’m at a loss. What do I do to stop this constant talking back and throwing crude words at me?
A. I, like you, was brought up to respect my elders—at any cost. I wasn’t allowed to say what I wanted, what I thought about anything, or express my opinion. Only adults had opinions. Having an opinion was never encouraged, never asked for, never listened to. If one came out, it was ignored or highly criticized as talking back. Life was about doing what grown-ups told you to do. Children were second-class citizens. Fortunately (I guess) my temperament kept me from ever expressing anger at my parents for keeping me quiet. I just simply stayed quiet. But my brother