The more immature the child, the more easily they fly off the handle. They can be physically or verbally aggressive to peers, siblings, parents & sometimes to themselves. Stresses build up during the day, from early traumas & sensitivities, until little things trigger their mounting frustration & it needs to be released. Their immature brain cannot manage their intense emotions. In other words: “It’s not their fault!”
On the bright side, consider that 80% of children outgrow childhood aggression through maturation, and that attachment-safe discipline methods promote self-control/maturation. What we do in the incident really counts.
Also remember that children have a primordial need for close attachments to their caretakers. This does not change when they are having a meltdown. They cannot make sense of explanations when their brains are frazzled. They need to express their feelings & need guidance as to where & when to do this. Do not take their behaviour personally. Here are some guidelines:
1. Instead of trying to make headway & fixing their behaviour, aim to DO NO HARM to the relationship. (do not shout or put them in time-out).
2. Address the aggression simply (if necessary). Keep everyone safe, without long explanations.
3. Attempt to change the situation or your reactions (NOT the child). (take the child into another room or outside; distract them)
4. Address the problem later away from the incident.
5. Talk about the next connection & that everything is OK.
6. Stay present & offer your warm, connection through eye-contact, touch, gentle voice.
It may seem counter-intuitive but this approach will NOT encourage messy behaviour. Instead it will create the conditions children need for feeling safe & growing in deep relationship.
By Laura Newman MSc