Handling Aggression In Young Children
Parent Circle|April 2017

Children are not born aggressive. They learn to become one. Aggression in children needs to be managed early in life. How can you, as a parent, do that? Find out in our top focus for this month.

Dr Sulata Shenoy and Rajesh Viswanathan

Rita is a mother to two young children, Raju and Ravi, aged 6 and 4 years, respectively. Like most young children, these siblings have already built their group of friends in the community. One day, Sabeeta, a neighbour comes over to Rita’s home to express concern over Raju’s recent bout of physical aggression. Sabeeta states that Raju was caught ‘red-handed’ biting the hand of her son, Sunil. Rita is shocked and wastes no time in spanking the hapless little Raju. The very next day, Raju starts taunting Sunil by calling him names. When Rita gets to know of this, she is shocked even more, but has no clue how to handle the situation that is getting out of control.

LET’S LOOK AT WHERE RITA GOT IT WRONG

Rita’s understanding of aggression was limited to physical aggression. Little did she realise that aggression can also be relational, and young children can switch between physical and relational aggression in no time.

Rita’s response to her child’s physical aggression was laced with physical aggression. She forgot that two negatives do not make a positive. Her way of handling her child’s aggression was incorrect.

Aggression in young children is more than just a part of the growing-up process. Time can be the best friend or the biggest enemy when it comes to handling aggression in young children. Early intervention holds the key to preventing young children from turning into violent teenagers and adults.

Before delving deeper into the element of intervention, let’s understand the key differences between physical and relational aggression.

CAUSES OF AGGRESSION IN YOUNG CHILDREN

Based on multiple studies over the years, the following factors are broadly seen as the biggest contributors to aggression in young children:

CHILD’S TEMPERAMENT: 

Largely genetic in nature, you must figure out if your child is

Easy and flexible

Sensitive

Difficult and rigid

A child’s temperament determines how she can cope with her own aggression. An easy and flexible child is calm and predictable, and is less likely to be aggressive. A difficult and rigid child might find it difficult to adjust to the environment, and could turn aggressive quickly.

FAMILY: A stressful atmosphere at home coupled with negative conversations is directly related to children turning aggressive. Young children learn from what we do and if we, as parents, display needless aggression, children will pick it up quite easily.

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