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Aggressive behaviours: How to help my child?

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Aggressive behaviours: How to help my child?

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Aggressive behaviours: How to help my child?

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Question: My youngest child is showing aggressive behaviours. What can I do if they won't seek help?




Learning how to manage strong emotions is a normal part of adolescent development.  Some teens lash out verbally, others may become physically aggressive. If they don't learn how to manage their anger, they could have difficulty in relationships, in their careers, and life in general.


If your child won’t seek professional help there are things you can do as a parent to assist them through this developmental stage.  You can play a significant role in helping your teen gain skills to manage and express strong emotions appropriately.  Consider the following:


Be a good role model: manage your own strong emotions and communicate assertively. Ensure you have a strong relationship with your teen because without this they probably won’t hear the wisdom you do have to offer.


Look for opportunities to connect with your teen.  Help your teen to recognise physical warning signs and identify triggers such as feeling misunderstood, having too many expectations from school or parents or being told “no”. 


Discuss with them the difference between anger and aggression.  Anger is important for it tells us something – it could be telling us a boundary has been crossed or that we are overwhelmed and don’t know how to handle something.  Aggressive behaviour however is not OK and this includes both physical and verbal.  Make it clear it is not okay to throw or break things, slam doors or use disrespectful language just because they feel angry.


Don’t try to have rational conversations with your teen when they are experiencing strong emotions. Encourage your teen to walk away from the situation and calm down.  When one is experiencing strong emotions it is very difficult to think rationally.  It is important for both parents and teen to know when to walk away. 


Help your teen to find out what calming techniques work for them; it could be deep breathing, playing with the dog or listening to music.  Once calm your teen will be equipped to think rationally, communicate effectively and find a healthy solution.


Teach your teen problem solving skills so they have more in their tool kit than aggression to get their needs met or solve problems.   Sometimes, teen aggression can turn into violence. Having a plan can keep everyone safe. If your teen lashes out at you, someone or something, put safety first. Let your teen know that violence is unacceptable and you will walk away from them until they've calmed down. If leaving the room or house isn't helping, if you feel threatened or scared call the police.  


If you would like more information some of these articles may be helpful:


JM, Child and Family Professional at The Benevolent Society


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