Hey guys! Guess what. I got a puppy! He refuses to let me write this post without pausing mid-sentence to give him some affection. We named him Percy Jackson, because we are awesome like that. Naturally, his leash and food bowl are blue.
Anywho, now that I bragged on my dog, let’s get down to business. What do you do with a child that acts out aggressively? Here is my super simple five step approach:
- STEP 1: The first step with any aggressive behavior is to figure out why the child is doing it. Has he recently seen violence in a movie? Does he simply want attention? Is the behavior directed towards one person or indiscriminate? Is the behavior a go-to response for not getting his way? Is the behavior the way the child shows anger? Sometimes the underlying cause is obvious. Sometimes you’ll have to dig a bit. It isn’t always necessary to know the why before continuing to Step 2, but I think you won’t take the aggression as personally if you understand the thoughts and actions behind it. It is hard to be rational when you get smacked in the face.
- STEP 2: Talk with the child about the behavior and why it is inappropriate. Match the discussion to the age level as necessary, but don’t lecture. Four or five sentences should suffice.
- STEP 3: Decide on a consequence for the aggressive behavior (ahead of time if possible). Consider time out, not earning a beloved privilege, or losing the chance to play with the person or animal that the behavior is directed towards.
- STEP 4: Follow through. When your child shows the aggressive behavior again, follow through on your consequence. It is very important to be consistent.
- STEP 5: Have your child apologize for the transgression, and do something to make up if possible (hug the person, get them an ice pack, kiss the boo boo, help pick up kicked down blocks, etc.)
|I included this just for fun. Oh, the gray area!|
Success Story! Cheerio Champ tried out some hostile language along with a very poorly performed martial arts bit after watching Power Rangers. Cheerio Champ screeched, “I SHALL DESTROY YOU!” and proceeded to attempt some weird spin move, following with a kick to my shin. While somewhat funny, it did smart. It was simple to see that Power Rangers, which he was still actively watching, was the cause for the aggression.
I went on to Step 2, telling Cheerio Champ that the behavior was inappropriate. Our house rules (which are posted on the wall), state that it is not okay for anyone in the family to yell, hit, threaten, tease, or be mean to another family member. I explained that he threatened to destroy me, and that kicking was like hitting with a foot. It is also generally frowned upon to perform martial arts against your mother, and mean to boot.
Step 3 and 4-I let Cheerio Champ know that his behavior didn’t earn him video games for that afternoon (notice that I phrase that intentionally as a positive, and not a negative. He didn’t lose a privilege; rather, he didn’t earn it. It puts the power in his lap and not mine. I’m not taking them away due to his behavior. He’s not earning them with poor behavior. A slight but important difference.)
I continued on to Step 5 by insisting that he owed me an apology. He promptly apologized and wanted to know if there was anything he could do to make up for it. I told him no, but thank you. It was enough to not do it again. So far so good! (I confess that this response isn’t something he came up with on his own. We trained him on it previously, but I think it is very important to know how to properly apologize. A script isn’t always a bad thing for kids.)
In the works! Princess Cheerio is a biter. She bites when she is frustrated
(mostly with her brother). I am encouraging her to use her words to talk
about her feelings, instead of biting. I
have also been introducing other ways for her to let off steam that don’t
involve biting her brother (or screaming, which is her other gold standard). I use time outs (2 minutes for her since she
is 2) when she falls back to biting. Princess
Cheerio knows why she isn’t allowed to bite (biting hurts!), and she apologizes
to her brother afterwards. I’ve been
doing it for two or three weeks, and she is down from biting dozens of times a
day to only biting once or twice. It’s a
process, but it is working and well worth it.
|Apparently I'm having a puppy fixation kind of day.|
I find this method to be effective. I hope you do too. Thanks for reading!
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