Dealing with aggression in your children

It is often a surprise for many to hear that the incidents of aggression and the frequency of its display peaks around the age of two.

I’m starting to get a little worried about my son’s outbursts. He has always had a bit of a temper and has struggled with getting along with his sister.

But now, as he starts to be involved with other kids I worry that his outbursts are going to cause him difficulty. At home he will yell, hit and throw things when he gets upset.

He often blames it on his sister and she does not help by telling him she is going to tell others about his tantrums, but his physical response seems over the top and I worry that if he starts to respond that way to other kids when he is at school we will have bigger problem on our hands.

How worried should I be and what can I be doing about it?

Thank you for your letter. You raise some important questions and ones that many parents find themselves struggling with.

You do not say how old your son and daughter are in this situation and while aggression, regardless of age, is something that we need to pay attention to, how we understand it and how we respond to it will be a bit different depending on the age and context.

It is often a surprise for many to hear that the incidents of aggression and the frequency of its display peaks around the age of two.

In general we are most aggressive as toddlers and both the displays and frequency of aggressive behaviours decreases with age. Often when we think of aggression we think of the dramatic accounts we see on the news that are often occurring between youth and/or adults.

Certainly such incidents are frightening and the consequences are very serious but they are also far less common than the less-dramatic incidents that happen between between younger children.

In young children, aggression is often a response to frustration, yet-to-develop self-regulation skills, and unsophisticated coping strategies. It is often defensive and used to protect against a real or perceived threat.

Not wanting to share a toy, feeling unfairly treated by another child or sibling, worried that one may not get what one wants, trying to control the situation or interaction are all examples of such situations.

Overt physical aggression is only one form of aggression.

Equally important is another form of aggression that is receiving increasing attention and recognition called relational aggression.  Relational aggression is defined as a type of aggression that is directed at harming others through the manipulation of social standing or relationships.

Like physical aggression, the threats of that behaviour are also seen as aggression. Research is showing that both boys and girls use relational aggression although it is more commonly seen in girls just as physical aggression is more commonly seen in boys. What the research is also showing is that such relational aggression is equally as damaging and problematic as physical acts of aggression are.

We need to be concerned with all physical and relational acts of aggression. Children need parents to help them understand the impacts of their behaviour on others and they need their parents to set limits and boundaries around what is acceptable.

Aggression becomes more problematic when, as children age, its frequency does not diminish, it does not respond to adult direction and it appears across multiple contexts (home, school and the community).

If it is primarily occurring at home with his sister then continuing to work with your son on developing some stronger skills for managing his frustration and developing some alternative strategies for coping in situations that upset him is a great place to focus.

Continue letting him know that what he is doing is not OK and when he is calm help him find other ways to cope.

Some common strategies are taking some space, letting others know how he feeling in an appropriate voice, asking the other person to stop or do something different,  ignoring the other person’s behaviour(if possible), and getting some help from adults.

It is also important to pay attention to what he is saying about how he is experiencing his sister and her behaviour. From your letter it appears that he is experiencing her response to him as a form of relational aggression and she may need some guidance and direction around this issue as well.

Do you have somebody to praise or something you have to get off your chest? Have your say by submitting to editor@comoxvalleyrecord.com. You can also get a written submission to 765 McPhee Ave., Courtenay, B.C. V9N 2Z7 or fax to 250-338-5568. If you wish to talk to the editor, phone Mark Allan at 250-338-7816, 2309.

Just Posted

Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

The cleanup comes a few weeks after one organized by residents of the Island

Gallery accepting applications for Youth Media Project

The Comox Valley Art Gallery is accepting applications for the Youth Media… Continue reading

Ribfest returning to the Comox Valley

It’s fast approaching—the fifth annual Comox Valley Ribfest takes place from Friday,… Continue reading

Merville crash closes highway in both directions

There is no estimated time of Highway 19A opening to traffic

Kayak shop in Courtenay getting back to business after crash

Operation does most of its business during busy summer months

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

The cleanup comes a few weeks after one organized by residents of the Island

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Most Read