If at any age you discover your child has violent tendencies, take action immediately. Dealing with this problem earlier is better, and not dealing with the problem can cause it to exacerbate, even leading to criminal activities. Many children with violent tendencies are behaving violent for a specific reason. As a mom, you have the opportunity to work closely with your child and uncover the true reason.
Improve Family Cohesiveness
In many cases, violent actions stem from family problems. That’s not to say that your family has a problem, but it is worth keeping an open mind. Children who feel that they are not getting enough attention in the home may act out violently as a way of getting attention -- because they might feel that negative attention is better than no attention. Strike out this possibility by building a strong level of family cohesion. Spend time alone with your child every day, if possible. Even 15 minutes will allow intimate communication to flow. Engaging in family routines and rituals will also help build a feeling of cohesiveness. Try holding a family game night every Thursday or taking your child out to his favorite restaurant every Wednesday. Or, if going to a restaurant isn't possible, spend time out of doors at a park. If your child is a girl, spend some time doing her favorite activities, whether it is baking or walking the mall, looking at what she'd love to buy. Consult with your pediatrician for followup about improving family cohesion and as to whether family counseling is a good option.
Set Clear Rules
Often, violent children have poor concepts of rules. By setting clear, reasonable rules, you give your child certain expectations to live by. The most important parts of setting rules for violence are that they are rational and have clear consequences. If your rules are rational and you discuss them with your child, he will have to agree that they make sense and should be followed. Whereas children may see no reason to follow a rule such as, “Don’t hit because mom said so,” it is harder to reject a rule like, “Don’t hit because you wouldn’t want other people hitting you.” Also, be clear as to what the consequences are and live up to them. Do not use violence as a consequence and do not give your child second chances. By setting clear rules and acting on the consequences if a rule is broken, you let your child know your expectations.
Sometimes, children use violence as a means of feeling powerful. This urge for power often comes from a feeling that the child has that he has a lack of power in the home. If a child’s parents control everything at home, a child might feel like they have no control over anything. Nip these powerless thoughts in the bud by letting your child have some input as to what happens in the home. This means that listening should take center stage. Make your family a democratic one, incorporating the decisions of even your youngest member. If you give your child a feeling of power in the home, he will not need to create the same feeling through violence.
Deal with Peer Pressure
Not all cases of violent tendencies start in the home; some start at school or on the playground. As children enter the years in which social behavior is important, they begin to incorporate how others judge them into their own self-worth. Children who suddenly begin acting violent may be in a social circle in which violence is common. If your child begins having problems in school or is involved in bullying, deal with the problem immediately. This is a problem that can spiral out of hand; in “The Bully Action Guide,” Edward Dragan notes that “Bullying, once it starts, is like an itch that a child has to scratch.” While it’s hard to play mom at school or on the playground, you can discuss the issues of peer pressure with your child and encourage him to stay away from violent children. Moving to a community in which violence is uncommon may be the best option.
- The Bully Action Guide; Edward Dragan
- NotMyKid.Org: What is Juvenile Delinquency?
- Healthy Behavior in School-Aged Children; Currie C. et al.
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