Jun 28, 2012

How to Deal When Your Children Are Violent

Violent tantrums: even the term is cringe-worthy. These mortifying experiences are commonly misunderstood by parents. More common still, is knowing the best way to handle these situations. Whether you're dealing with this in your family right now or think you have the best solution to cure these screaming, slapping and crying little people, consider the following:

First and foremost, parents should re-set their frame of mind. Remember that all behaviors (for children and adults alike) are attempts to fulfill a certain need. For example, your two-year-old runs away from the tub everyday at bathtime. What his behavior is saying = "I do NOT want to do that!" With a bit of Active Listening (verbal and non-verbal), you might find out why he is resistant to taking baths. Maybe he knows that right after bathtime is bedtime, and so he's trying to delay. Maybe you run the bath water too hot. A child this young might not have any way of verbalizing this to you and may not even realize that taking a bath can happen any time of day, or that the bath water can, in fact, be ran at a cooler temperature. When your children show you strong resistance, they are showing you that they're experiencing a problem.

Active Listening is the number one tool in finding out what's going on behind their behavior, which often asks as a masking agent. If your child is upset, it's not the time to cut them off and tell them to "put a cork in it." While you can explain (as a consultant) the effect that certain violent behaviors have on those around them, commanding them to stop will not solve their issue. Problems handled in this way lead to repetitive and often more passionate outburtsts. Children, like adults, want to be listened to and want their feelings to be considered. After Active Listening, sometimes the tantrum will stop right there. But other times it won't...

Particularly in families where the child's needs are rarely considered, if ever, a change in the child's behavior from tantrums to peacefulness will take some time to appear. Active Listening isn't usually an overnight fix. It takes time for the child to get used to the fact that you are actually listening to their needs and considering their feelings. In parent-child relationships which have been power based and the child usually "loses" the battle, trust will need to be rebuilt in order to have a solid foundation for Active Listening to be effective.

With time, skill, and some patience, these outlashes will begin to subside. By showing your children that you aren't going to simply "make them do something because you said so", you are also teaching your children an extremely important lesson in how to deal with conflicts. Raising children in this way will provide our society with the kind of adults who handle the needs and feelings of others in a respectable and effective manner.

For much more on this, check out the Parent Effectiveness Training book or learn about P.E.T. classes near you!

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