If we want to stop our child’s aggression, we have to stop focussing on the behaviour and respond to our child’s big feelings.” – Sarah Rosensweet
Imagine you had a bad day and you are slamming the cupboard doors while you’re trying to figure out what to make for dinner. What would you like your partner to do or say?
Probably something like, “Hey darling, looks like you’re feeling upset about something. Want to talk about it? I’m here for you.”
What if instead your partner said, “Hey! Slamming cupboard doors is NOT okay. Stop right now.”
That would NOT go over well in my house.
With children we often respond to the behaviour and ignore the feelings. Your child already knows that hitting isn’t okay, or that yelling isn’t a good way to respond to something upsetting. They don’t need to hear that again.
What they do need is help with the big feelings that are overwhelming them and setting off their ‘fight’ emergency response. Aggression is a message, just like the cupboard doors: “I am upset!”
We need to empathize first and foremost to let them know we get the message so they can stop sending it.
We can say, “Sweetie! You are so upset that you are hitting. I understand. Of course you are upset about this! And at the same time, you don’t need to hit. You can tell me how you feel. I am here to help.”
If your child is older than 2, they already KNOW that hitting isn’t okay. It’s not an information gap.
We need to respond to the feeling that is driving the aggression. If we can help with the feeling, the aggression is unnecessary.
Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 15, 18, and 21). Peaceful parenting is a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Sarah works one-on-one virtually with parents all over the world to help them go from frustrated and overwhelmed to, “We’ve got this!”
Read more at: www.sarahrosensweet.com