Aggression and bullying are problematic behaviors in childhood. They cause immediate suffering and can have serious long- term effects. School dropout, unemployment, depression, anxiety, criminality, reduced achievement and competence in adulthood are just some of the problems thought to result from being a bully in childhood.
Generally speaking, aggressive children manifest such characteristics as overt or covert hostility, disobedience, physical and verbal aggressiveness, quarrelsomeness, vengefulness and destructiveness. Children who exhibit aggressive behavior also tend to have a multitude of other problems. Lying, solitary stealing and temper tantrums are also common. Such children tend to be sexually uninhibited and inclined towards sexual aggressiveness. Hyperactivity and inattention are often characteristics of aggressive kids. A minority may engage in fire-setting, vandalism and even homicidal acts.
The problems that afflict aggressive kids affect their school performance and how they perceive themselves in the world. These kids are more likely to do poorly at school as compared to their peers. They also perceive their parents as rejecting them; their teachers as unfair and other kids as mean and bullying. They feel less happy, are more likely to have low self esteem and do not believe they can get help from parents and teachers.
Such kids usually come from a family setting typically characterized by rejection, harsh and inconsistent discipline and general frustration. Frequently the parents are unstable in their marital relationships, emotionally disturbed or even sociopathic and provide the child little in the way of consistent guidance, acceptance or affection. Many a time the child is unwanted and he knows it. This pattern is also found amongst kids whose parents have used bribery in an effort to control their behavior. Aggressive kids tend to come from low socio-economic backgrounds, with higher levels of violence. To summarize, problems in parenting skills and conflict in the home are the main contributing factors in producing aggressiveness in children.
In the 21st century, violence on television is an equally strong contributory factor affecting kids negatively according to psychological research. Three major effects of seeing violence on TV are:
- – Children can become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
- – Children may be more fearful of the world around them.
- – Children can become more aggressive in their behavior towards others.
As with any other problem behavior, the first step in treatment is prevention. Infants and toddlers tend to become aggressive in some pretty predictable patterns. Rough play, crowded conditions, being tired, hungry or uncomfortable can all provoke aggressive outbursts in a young child. When roughhousing with a youngster, keep a special eye out for the point where the ” play aggression” moves beyond play. When young kids get overexcited, they are likely to forget the rules. Do not let their mouths get close to anyone else’s skin and make sure they do not handle any dangerous objects. Take a pause every few minutes to calm everyone down and get emotions back under control. In a classroom situation, make sure there are lots of toys and plenty of space and time for outside play. Large motor activities are great for encouraging young kids to play together. Reward positive behavior when you see it. Hugs, gentle touches, sharing and co-operation should be noted and rewarded with lots of attention.
The key to discouraging aggressive behavior is to help them empathize with others. We should tell them to “touch gently” and “be nice”; We should take their hand and help them touch the other person very gently. In addition to helping them develop more empathy, always give more attention to the hurt party when dealing with aggression in order to make the aggressors bid for attention fail.
Many acts of aggression are simply acts to get attention. It is best to ignore most misbehaviour; however, this is not wise with aggression. Children are often simply exploring cause and effect- particularly their own power to cause reactions in the world around them. This is a wonderful path of exploration, but needs to be simply redirected down the proper path, not discouraged. Encourage them to hit a play nail with a play hammer, instead of hitting their sister. Encourage them to give a kiss instead of a bite. Show them that they do have the power to get your attention, but by doing good things, not by misbehaving. With this approach, kids will be able to resolve a lot of their problems and aggression will diminish. For very serious problems, counseling may be necessary to deal with the difficult emotions they are facing. The earlier the problems are identified and handled, the sooner they will be resolved.
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