MH speaks to Jeanette (Nettie) Forsyth, counsellor, psychotherapist and behaviour strategist, about how you can take control of your child’s aggressive behaviour.
WORDS DR NICOLA DAVIES
“A baby learns to become defensive when primary needs are not met. If relationships with parents are not repaired, this leads to anger over unresolved feelings, and anger, if not dealt with, leads to aggression,” maintains Jeanette (Nettie) Forsyth, counsellor, psychotherapist and behaviour strategist.
To this end, the following steps in dealing with aggression are recommended:
1. Don’t try to reason with an angry, aggressive child. Let the child calm down by having no social interaction as any attention at this point is negative. With the rush of adrenaline, whatever you say will not be heard.
2. When the child has calmed down, help them to identify the feelings that led to the behaviour. Validate their wants and help them to verbally express those feelings.
3. Teach children to manage conflict as it arises, as the ensuing situation will become much harder to control.
4. Use theatre games and puppets so children can express their aggressive feelings in a non-harmful way in a “pretend” situation.
5. Read bedtime stories to your child that show how conflict is managed effectively. During story time, make yourself open to discussing feelings of anger in relation to the characters, as the child, with some guidance, finds solutions for the characters. Having these models will help them control aggression in real situations.
6. Never laugh at, or laughingly tell an adult friend within a child’s earshot range, about their aggressive actions. This only results in more feelings of anger and a perception that they are not being taken seriously. In a three-year-old’s world, the tantrum was in response to something they felt very strongly about.
7. Illustrate scenarios and give the child words to help describe aggressive feelings. For example, “How would you feel if your hair was pulled?” Let them suggest solutions and when they come up with a good one, reinforce the answer. The secret is to let them think the problem through instead of telling them how they should feel and react.
8. Lastly, don’t let the child play violent video games or toys that promote aggressive behaviour. Many studies have indicated that violent toys increase aggression levels in young children.