Anger is the foundation of aggression, violence, and hostility. A lot of researches are being conducted in psychological and psychiatric settings to underpin the basic causes of anger followed with diverse treatment strategies valuable for teenagers and adults. Functionally, anger can be anticipated, explored as well as investigated among children and teenagers by parents easily. The difficult part is not anticipating and recognising triggers of anger, but to deal with the child when he is angry or demonstrates the anti-social behaviour.
Anger among children can be seen in different settings such as school, universities, workplace and domestic environment however it has other dimensions too. According to National bullying survey 56% of young people mentioned, they have seen others being bullied online. Around 43% of people felt unsafe online.
As per recent systematic review conducted by Hillis. Et. al, (Paediatrics,2016), a billion children and youth aged 2-17 years experienced violence during past year. The study concluded that early exposures to violence may weaken the structure and functioning of the brain. Young children are at greater risk anger, violence, aggression can affect their metabolic system, immune system and lead to them to the path of mental health problems, diabetics and heart diseases.
Often aggression during early childhood years is not considered seriously. Anger in toddlers, young children and teenagers can be understood in different ways. It can be hypothesised as a personality trait or genetic factor. Social-cultural background also plays the significant role in childhood anger.
In simple terms,aggression is an effort to control and harm another person. However, when it comes to children and teenagers they should not be victimised of physical force or mental agony with the intention to damage just because they behave in a way we do not want them to.
Hitting, spanking, or shouting at the child will lead to poor impulse control, self-regulation as well as poor expression of aggression. misbehaviour of child mentally, socially and emotionally. The Rising Horizons of tomorrow do not need authoritative, permissive or uninvolved parenting styles but a feeling of gentle touch, affection, and love.
Higher is the voice tone of an adult while dealing with the angry toddler or young child, greater will be his aggression. Calmness, patience, and nonviolent environment are essential components to improve a child’s behaviour. In simple terms, child’s behaviour is (directly proportional) very much affected by parent’s behaviour!
If the parent and child shout together then situation remains, the same without any enhancements. It will be like beating around the bush which has no outcome ever. Moreover, it affects child’s trustworthiness and emotional security (parent-child bonding) in the long term. It is important to understand that a child under the age of four or five years does not have any intention to harm anyone around him.
He wants to explore the world through different body senses such as touching different textures (examples-carpet, power plug points, keys of laptop, smartphone), observing contrasting colours and images to explore visuals (snatching phone or iPad to see images or photos) and shouting as they enjoy their own voice but hitting, kicking or pinching parents or caregivers is not their agenda fundamentally. Even shouting or getting angry is not their first choice, it happens only when they have no other option to get their things done!
Biting usually happens due to tethering factor.
At this developmental stage attention seeking behaviour is prevalent which is misinterpreted as aggressive behaviour of toddlers or young ones. A study completed by Dahl, A. (2015) at the University of California also suggests, that the use of aggression by toddlers or young ones is unprovoked. Children involve into the explorative force to seek attention. Unprovoked acts presumably become less frequent from 18 months onwards as toddlers learn that their aggression harms’ others or they become sensitive towards other’s distress. So it should be understood that children are not hitting or biting intentionally to upset parents and siblings but because of their own newness in the world. Children belonging to age group of 36 months are likely to get aggressive.
Following are some of the hands-on, solution-based, nurturing strategies that can be explored to improve and strengthen child’s behaviour, self-esteem as well as parent-child bonding. It should be remembered, that each child is different however learning more about your child’s behaviour and implementing these suggestions consistently can be beneficial.
A. Act quickly but Calmly:
When the child is aggressive it is important that parents should demonstrate patience, calmness and normal voice of tone. Screaming and shouting will not resolve the issue instead it will aggravate the aggression within the child. Moreover, there will be the mirroring of parent’s actions. Parents must not waste time or follow “Let it go” approach considering that this is his first time or he is too young to understand instructions and gestures.
For instance, if the child hits his younger sibling without any reason, for the first time, it should be addressed immediately. He needs to apologise and take a time-out of 3 to 5 minutes to calm down and think about his mistake, Later, parents can discuss with him making him realise what wrong he has done. He should be aware of his actions and their consequences.
Keynote: Setting rules for actions with related consequences is important.
B. Appreciate your child (This is applicable for 3-year-old or more):
Praising plays an important role. Appreciate child’s efforts if he behaves well in social gatherings instead of shouting, kicking, pinching or simply being impulsive.
Encourage his desirable behaviour by rewarding him smileys or thumbs-up on the behavioural chart for good deed or kindness act such as opening doors for others.
Hugs and kisses are good to calm down an angry child. According to Sensory Integration theory, hugs provide deep pressure to body which is a great way of relaxing the child. Use of weighted blankets or vests can also be helpful for ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder. Most of the times anger is co-morbid with these conditions.
Other approaches can be pat on the back, applauding or giving appreciation certificates on the accomplishment of the task.
Some parents try to reinforce good behaviour by awarding Lego, play station, X-Box, or chocolates which are common forms of “bribing”. This will be probably helpful for the short term. As soon as bribery is stopped, child reverts back to the same behaviour.
Keynote: Giving hugs and kisses is a gesture to make kids realise that they are valued and cared simply because they are parent’s true love.
C. Involve with the child holistically:
To understand your child’s thinking, emotions or internal feelings keep the phone at a distance while interacting with him. It is important to dedicate time to child mentally and physically. We create distance from family to establish and maintain relations with distant people.
Turning off your phone, especially if it’s ‘smart’, is one of the easiest ways for most of us to significantly bump up our attention and focus on the present.
Parents need to understand that what is important currently and in future is in front of their eyes and not on the screen of smartphones.
If parents cannot pay more attention to a child it’s okay, but ignoring child’s existence is not tolerable. Ignorance hurts child emotionally and mentally and psychologically. Building good childhood memories is parent’s responsibility.
Keynote: Can’t pay attention, is tolerable but ignorance is intolerable.
D. Learn to say NO:
Saying yes to everything will not make you an ideal parent. It is not necessary that all the demands are fulfilled every time. If demands are out of your reach due to lack of time or funds, you can always say NO in a civilised manner without involving verbal or physical violence. Loving or reflecting good behaviour does not mean that you always have to compromise in every situation to avoid aggression.
Let the child understand that every demand is not genuine to be fulfilled. This way we can also prevent jeopardised situations such as receiving the call from nursery or preschool since child’s behaviour is a headache for others too. It is better to pay attention and teach child social ethics and norms at home rather than get embarrassed in front of guests or outsiders.
Keynote: It’s important to teach but not to punish!
E. Physical activities
This is one good source of reducing anger and aggression. Many times kids are very energetic and need some source to channelize their energies. If this does not happen they become aggressive and difficult to be handled. Physical activities support them to self-regulate physically, mentally and emotionally. For example, doing trampoline activities at a home or going out to parks to do running can be beneficial.
Moreover, riding a bike or playing obstacle course with pillows or soft toys can be done at home. This also helps them in exploring new tasks and learning through doing. Physical activities generate and activate brain cells that support in cognitive and perceptual development. Additionally, doing activities with playmates or friends increases socialisation and social skills.
Keynote: Channelize child’s energies in the positive direction.
Spanking leads to NO change in child’s behaviour.
Many times out of frustration parents spank kids thinking this will stop his undesirable behaviour however spanking sparks more hostility and aggression. Expressing anger peacefully is tricky but more effective as long-term behaviour modification rather than scolding or spankings. Spanking is modelling violence which could be mild but harmful.
It should be avoided completely. Hitting in any form does not teach the child how it feels when being hurt instead it backfires the lesson, says Elizabeth Gershoff, a child development expert at the University of Texas at Austin. She says kids don’t change their behaviour instead they hit more other people.
Keynote: Monkey see, monkey do!
G. Use of Gestures:
This develops child’s understanding of right and wrong.
No shouting or scolding rule doesn’t mean permissive parenting. There can be other approaches that can be used such as strong eye contact gesture, making a sad face, to show dislike towards child’s action. Nine months onwards children are able to understand “NO”, so this gesture can be used to show resistance or discouragement towards wrongdoing. Paediatrician Dr Harvey Karp suggests a “clap-growl” technique. She says if a child has bitten her little brother, “Give a good sharp clap,” and then extend your index finger, saying “No bite! “Parent might look away for a second and repeat the stern look again, waving his or her finger and saying no bite”. Gestures to remain quiet (keeping a finger on lips) or thumbs-down when he is shouting or yelling will help to develop child’s understanding of emotions and his doings.
Showing thumbs-up when he does something positive will help a child to be confident in learning positive behaviour. Teaching different gestures such as hand-shake, clapping, waving supports a toddler or young child to interact socially during early childhood.
Keynote: Gestures are a non-verbal form of communication that supports a child to develop verbally.
Think about it: How would you feel if someone always keeps irritating you stating your behaviour is not correct?