Aggression among youth is at its highest level; it can include behaviors like not following instructions, whining, crying and teasing. At it’s most extreme, it can involve assault, rape, robbery, and murder.
1. To help prevent and recognize aggressive behavior in their children and act before it becomes a problem.
2. To show parents how they can teach their children to stop using negative, aggressive behaviors and learn new, positive behaviors.
It must be identified as a problem before the process of change can begin. Common thinking is that children use aggression only when they are angry, kids can turn to aggression for other reasons. Some aggressive kids are motivated by factors like jealousy, spite, or the need for control, and actually plan out their attacks on others.
Parents are architects of their children’s future.
Aggression is standing up for one’s self in dishonest and inappropriate ways that violate the rights of another person. The worst aspect of aggression is hurting others. This covers many behaviors: arguing, fighting, taking something from someone, calling others names, pushing and shoving, hitting, kicking, showing disrespect for others, making fun of others, refusing to follow instructions, and ignoring authority figures. There is a difference between an aggressive child and a child who sometimes uses aggressive behaviors. An aggressive child has learned to rely on force, intimidation or disobedience as ways to control people or situations. A child who sometimes uses aggressive behaviors either has not learned or doesn’t always remember to use positive skills for solving problems. It is much more difficult to “remove” aggression after it has become the major part of a child’s personality than it is to help a youngster change aggressive behaviors that occur only occasionally.
Parents must consider a number of factors when trying to make this distinction:
• How often are aggressive behaviors occurring?
• How severe are the behaviors?
• Do the behaviors get worse when the child doesn’t get his or her way?
• Does minor misbehavior seem to be giving way to more violent, hurtful behaviors?
• Are others afraid of the child?
• Some parents might not even consider behaviors like whining, glaring, ignoring, crying and many others to be signs of aggression.
Different levels of aggression:
Level 1 – Noncompliance and/or Making Threatening Statements or Gestures
• Repeatedly refusing to do what a parent, teacher, or other authority figure asks.
• Whining and crying
• Making sarcastic remarks
Example – Threats:
• Using demanding statements (e.g. “Make me something to eat!”)
• Repeating a behavior in order to annoy others (e.g., singing loudly, or pounding a fist on a table).
• Staring and glaring.
• Clenching a fist or both fists.
• Cursing and yelling.
• Ultimatums (e.g., “If you don’t take me to the movie, I’m gonna break your lamp!”).
• Invading someone’s personal space.
• Physically aggressive posturing (e.g., standing over a person in a threatening manner).
Level 2 – Causing Property Damage
A youngster frequently damages property.
• Throwing objects.
• Punching or kicking objects (e.g., punching or kicking a hole through a wall).
• Setting fires.
Level 3 – Harming Animals
A youngster frequently is cruel to animals or harms them.
• Teasing an animal
• Throwing an object at an animal
• Hitting or kicking an animal in any other way.
Level 4 – Physically Harming Others or Self
A youngster consistently hurts others or him or herself, but doesn’t cause long-lasting or permanent physical or psychological damage.
• Poking a finger into someone’s chest.
• Pushing or shoving.
• Throwing or kicking objects at others.
• Attempting to hurt self (e.g., cutting one’s skin).
Level 5 – Using Violence
A youngster physically hurts others, himself or herself, or animals in ways that cause long-lasting or permanent physical or psychological damage.
• Bomb Threats.
• Intentionally torturing or killing an animal.
• Aggravated assault.
Aggression usually has its beginnings in childhood and parents must know the behaviors that signal a problem, aggression usually involves a consistent pattern of aggressive behaviors, whether they are minor or serious.
Anger, Assertiveness or Aggression?
When parents know what aggression is not, it is easier for them to tell the difference between appropriate behavior that should be praised and reinforced, and harmful behavior that should be corrected. For example, a youth who gets what she wants by being outspoken and confident might be criticized for being aggressive when in fact she was only showing some independence.