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4 Steps You Can Take Right Now to Reduce Aggression in Your Child
By Thomas B. Haller, M.Div., M.S.W., A.C.S.W., D.S.T.
co-author of Couple Talk


1. Turn Off The Television and the Video Games

In 1993, the American Psychological Association estimated that 10 percent of aggressive behavior in children could be attributed to TV violence.

A study published in the January 2001 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine provides evidence that television and video games contribute to aggressive behavior in children.

Children watch an estimated 21 hours of TV per week.

80-93% of the children’s programs contain violence.

Children’s programs contain 41 aggressive acts per hour with attempted murder every 2 minutes.

Television and video violence promotes aggression in children in 3 ways. First by showing children that violence is a way to resolve conflicts. Second by making children less sensitive to violence. Third by encouraging a belief that the world is “mean and scary”.

Stop using the T.V. and video games as a way to “entertain” or even “baby sit” your children. Get them active in reading, art, music and good old fashioned conversation about the world around them.

2. Stop Modeling Aggressive Behavior

When you attempt to stop a child from being aggressive by overpowering them, by taking a position of authority, or by intimidation, you are using a form of aggression as a way to stop aggression. You teach the very behavior that you are attempting to eliminate. Let go of the “do as I say” attitude. Find alternatives to yelling, taking an aggressive stance, and spanking.

Remember that 90% of all aggressive acts are a child’s attempt to have a need met. The aggression is the instrument being used to meet a need. Examine the situation closely in an attempt to discover the desired need. Explore with your child alternate ways they can get what they want. Use words that help your child make a different choice next time.

3. Stop Teaching Aggressive Behavior

Aggression can be taught. Research indicates that 75% of aggressive acts by children ages 6 to 16 were done to obey parents. The children were following the directions of parents who were saying, “Stand-up for yourself,” “Hit them back,” “Prove you’re a man.” With these words parents are teaching their children to use aggression to stop aggression.

Instead of teaching aggression, teach children the power of their words. Help them discover a language of boundaries. Equip them with the ego strength to say, “I don’t like it when you say those things to me,” “I won’t play with you when you treat me that way,” “I won’t let you do that to me anymore.” Help them learn to use the resources of the school and the community to report violent acts.

4. Stop Reinforcing Aggressive Behavior

Aggression is a sure way to get attention. The person who commits the aggressive act ends up receiving a considerable amount of attention. Most of the time we go straight to the aggressor, “Cut that out,” “You know the rules,” “Get over here,” “I told you to stop that.” We chase after the perpetrator and leave the victim. The victim is often attended to after the aggressor has been corrected, chastised, or disciplined. This over time begins to reinforce instrumental aggression.

Go to the victim first. Take care of their hurt or sadness. Help them process what just happened. Let the aggressor see you taking care of the other person. You will have time to address the aggressive act with them in a few minutes. By going to the victim first you show the children where your value is. You are letting the aggressor know that the value is on healing not on attacking.



Thomas B. Haller is a Couples and Family Therapist and the co-author of Couple Talk, a "how-to" book for couples wishing to develop their skills and techniques for enhancing their relationship with their partner. He is also widely sought after as a national and international presenter in the areas of parenting, interpersonal relationships, and chronic pain. Thomas is also the founder and director of Healing Minds Institute, a center devoted to teaching others to focus and enhance the health of the mind, body, and spirit. Visit www.healingmindsinstitute.com for more information on Thomas Haller and his work.



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