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Give Children Tools to Avoid Aggressive Behavior

Apr 11, 2008
These days, it is not uncommon to tune into the news and find horrifying stories of girls beating up other girls, kids shooting kids at school and the list goes on. Unfortunately, violence is almost a daily part of our society, from television to war protests to schoolyard bullies, parents need to be very aware of how aggressive behavior begins and how to prevent it from becoming a problem.

Beginning around 18 months old, children can start to show signs of aggression. Early intervention is critical to preventing children who have violent tendencies from getting out of control. More importantly, all children should be taught from an early age that violence is not a solution, but a problem that will only create bigger problems. I often hear parents asking the following question:

How can we prevent these aggressive acts from happening and what can we do to protect our children from being beaten, bullied, threatened or worse by other children?

1. Be a good role model for your child by learning to control your own anger or aggressive tendencies. Seek counseling if you have anger management issues. Activities like spanking, yelling at and threatening children can translate into schoolyard bullies, fights and even more dangerous violent activities.

Disciplining children does not have to involve aggressive techniques, which can give children the message that this type of behavior is acceptable, "if mom does it, I can do it". Explore positive discipline techniques and give children at least 30 minutes of direct, one on one positive attention every day.

2. Teach children from an early age the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want them to treat you. Look for opportunities to teach your children how to make good choices with others. If you see your child acting in an unkind manner, talk to him or her about how he or she would feel to be treated that way. Teaching your child how to talk about emotions will allow your child to express him or herself appropriately.

3. Pay close attention to the friends that your child chooses. Does the friend treat your child with respect and kindness? If not, talk to your child about how that friend makes him or her feel and whether there are other children who might make him or her feel better. Parents should make an effort to know who their child is friends with and guide him or her to be friends with people who bring positive experiences to the relationship.

4. Explain to children that physical or verbal aggression are not acceptable under any circumstances. When an adult sees a child exhibiting aggressive behavior, the child should not be scolded, but rather removed from the situation. Then, the child should be questioned about what happened and what could have been done differently to avoid the aggressive feelings in the first place. This will give the child tools to avoid aggression in the future.

5. Give children an outlet for their energy from an early age. Kids have a lot of physical energy and if they do not have a productive way to release that energy, they can find themselves in trouble.

Activities like sports, martial arts, music, art and dance are all wonderful ways to let children get physical in healthy ways. Children should engage in one of these activities at least once a day or whenever tensions arise. Having positive outlets for energy can helps children to feel successful, productive and proud among many other benefits.

These 5 tips can be applied to children young and old, tweens, teens and even adults. By starting early, parents can encourage their children to communicate and behave in appropriate ways, setting children up for success. Parents who want their children to be happy should do their best to show their children what happy people and behave like. Conversely, parents should discuss misbehavior not in a threatening way, but as an opportunity to discuss choices.

The more parents can teach children to use their words and bodies in positive ways, the greater the likelihood that children will not engage in aggressive or dangerous behaviors later in life.

On another note, children who exhibit aggressive behavior during their teens are typically starved for positive attention from their parents. It is never too late to give your child support and love, especially if they are struggling. If parents can start at an early age to interact with kids on a regular basis and be involved in every aspect of their children's lives, then guns, girl fights on the internet and other violent acts can be decreased and supportive parents will be on the rise. Which will you choose?
About the Author
Britt Michaelian, MA is the founder and CEO of Responsible Family Company. Her DVD, Care for Kids: The Essential Guide to Preparing Caregivers educates caregivers about medical emergencies. Sign up for the newsletter and get a free Child Safety Report at http://www.ResponsibleFamily.com
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