Problems in Relationships
Aggressive behavior is one of the most challenging problems for parents, teachers, and children (both the aggressor and the victim). Any act that intentionally hurts another person physically or psychologically is aggression. At times, adults differ in their definition of aggression with some calling certain behaviors assertive (taking charge but not hurtful) and others labeling the same behaviors aggressive. Two common types of aggression are reactive aggression and proactive aggression.
In reactive aggression, a child is responding defensively and with a show of anger to a perceived provocation. In proactive aggression, the child often has a goal in mind and may not show overt signs of anger. Their actions may be to obtain an object or a position of power. The bully is attempting to intimidate or dominate another person (Schwartz, Dodge, and Cole, 1993). When children express aggressive behavior in the peer group, it usually reduces their acceptance. For example, a study by Dodge (1983) showed that boys who exhibited inappropriate, disruptive, antisocial, and aggressive play behaviors were often unpopular.
Inappropriate aggression may be due to a lack of appropriate social skills and/ or having too high a level of anger to be able to control it. When children do not know how to express their feelings or needs effectively, they need help. Adults can teach or model for these children appropriate words, ways to approach someone for an object or a turn, and how to defend assertively and not aggressively the objects in their possession. Children need to practice these skills. In the process, children require adult support until these responses become part of their social repertoire. When children are successful, their anger is also reduced.
Some children are aggressive because they cannot cope with their high levels of anger and frustration. Their actions often escalate both their levels of anger and frustrations. It is crucial to help these children to respond in ways that reduce the anger and not cause them to get into more trouble. They need techniques for taking control of their feelings and for using socially acceptable ways to release them. Pounding clay, kicking a ball, running, hitting a nail into wood, and water play all can substitute for inappropriate aggression. Again, children need adult support while they are attempting to behave in an acceptable manner.
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