Children of all ages and both genders can exhibit aggressive behaviour towards parents. In the initial stages, verbal aggression manifests in the form of snapping, shouting, screaming, yelling, uttering bad words etc. Aggression could be to manipulate the parents to give into their demands or an expression of frustration after being denied of something or after having gone through some disappointment. The child may exhibit such aggression even to cover his or her faults to avoid punishment or castigation.
When children do not get what they want through such verbal aggression, they may step it up to physical violence. It will manifest in the form of throwing things, hitting themselves, breaking things, or hitting a parent. Since a mother is generally more tolerant, forgiving and does not hold aggressive behaviour against a child, she is usually the easier victim. This can be both demoralising and humiliating for her. When parents tolerate physically aggressive expressions, then they can continue even during teenage and adulthood.
It is important that both parents disapprove of such aggression at the very first instance in strongest possible manner. If one parent even remotely supports such undesirable behaviour, the child will not give it up. The child will get mixed messages and take sides with the approving parent and continue such aggression.
Enabling the child to overcome aggression is pivotal for the healthy emotional growth of the child. The child should be taught to experience and express emotions without being offensive to those around. Frustration tolerance can be easily taught through sports and board games; as it will enable the child to accept failure as much as celebrate success. Many children play computer games but switch off the game when they are losing, and as it does not involve any human interaction, the experience will not be converted into real life learning by the child. Parents should not prevent failures and frustrating moments for the child. Only by going through those emotional experiences can a child learn.
Childhood aggression can become a part of a person’s personality and lead to exhibitions of further aggression before one’s colleagues, spouse and children. Domestic violence is not just perpetrated by men, as is popularly believed; women can also be physically violent. Therefore, the child should be corrected, as quickly as possible.
Ravi Samuel is a psychotherapist.