One of your worst parenting nightmares happens when your child becomes aggressive with you. Even seasoned parents can become frustrated when a kid starts throwing toys, blows or kicks their way. While the natural reaction to an attack might be to counter attack, it has no place in parenting. With some help and a bit of practice you can offer a responsible example and appropriate guidance to your child to help handle her emotions.
Seek support and professional assistance if necessary. If you are struggling with an aggressive kid, chances are your child is also struggling. Find a certified parent educator, coach, pastor, therapist or other person you trust to help you learn the skills you need to parent your aggressive child and help your child work through what he's feeling. Sometimes children experience trauma or something else that needs attention. Don't attempt it alone for any length of time. Difficult parenting can go more smoothly with support and you child may appreciate talking to someone helpful too.
Learn how to calm yourself when you feel angry. Parenting can bring out the worst in a person when it gets rough. Have a parent time-out when you feel upset. Practice meditation, conscious relaxation or another calming activity when you're not upset, so you have something to draw from when the rubber meets the road. When your child is being aggressive, notice your reaction and choose to take some slow, deep breaths so you can still focus on your relationship even when you feel angry. Laura Markham, child psychologist writing at AhaParenting.com, suggests listening to anger instead of acting from it harshly.
Share alternatives to violence with your child when she's calm. Kids need other ways to work through what they feel if they are being aggressive. Help your child discover and practice constructive ways to express anger like stomping, running, jumping jacks, talking about what she feels and wants to have happen or drawing a picture and tearing it up. Make a list of activities to deal with angry feelings to post on the fridge. Markham says you can also help your child recognize warning signs like low-level irritation, racing heartbeat, clenched jaws or feeling hot so she can get some space instead of act aggressively towards you.
Create safe boundaries and stay connected to your child. Patty Wipfler, founder of Hand in Parenting, offers that emotions drive aggressive actions in children, fear stops thinking and kids act out. Wipfler says that children in this emotional state need to connect with a loving parent and sometimes a vigorous snuggle can help. State the boundary in simple terms, such as "Hitting hurts, I want to be touched gently if you touch me." Acknowledge the child and offer another way to connect, such as "How about a high five or some fun wrestling?"
Assess your plan and modify as necessary to help your child learn how to address feelings responsibly. Boundaries are important and children are unique. If you find it difficult to connect and help your child learn alternatives to being aggressive, keep seeking assistance and be gentle with yourself. Some parenting challenges require repeated attempts at solving to see any progress.
- Look for triggers and work to prevent them when possible.
- If you feel like you might harm your child, seek professional assistance.
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