Handling Aggressive Play
By Jane Cashin
While it's great to have a child who handles the rough and tumble of life, there's a fine line between play and bullying. With positive parenting you can prevent your child being bullied or becoming the aggressor by teaching them how to play appropriately.
Your child will increasingly look for interaction with their surrounds and their commitment is 100%. Having seen my baby thrashing around at 6 months I
realize now why they say babies are tough!
However, it can be quite shocking to see how children treat each other. When one child knocks another over or worse hits another, it’s quite upsetting. Here are a few tips about how to handle rough and tumble play and what to do when you think it is out of hand.
Babies know what they want before they can tell you. You’ll find they will let you know even at 10 months what they want, up or down, this room or that, hungry or just playing. They start to protest when you take a toy away, or get them out of the bath. Look for these signs in your baby and see if you can find their likes and dislikes.
Put your child with other children and watch them go from an early age. You’ll find out whether they are shy or forward. Often babies grab toys, roll into and grab at other babies. They love to interact.
You won’t always be there to keep your child out of trouble. So learning to go with the flow and deal with a rough and tumble world is essential. Your job is to guide that exploration into positive play. Sharing, gentleness, conversing, these are all skills that your child may not have. Reminding and showing those skills when your child is being a bit too rough is a great way for them to learn.
Focus on the behavior
When you see your child or another doing something you don’t like focus on redirecting the behavior. By saying “Why don’t we put the blocks in the box now” you may prevent a block being thrown or hitting another child. This skill is the most important tool you will have for the first few years. Your child learns what they should do with the item, how they should behave.
Model the behavior you want
Your child learns by example. If you yell to express yourself, so will they. If you hit them, they will hit back, or hit others in return. By being gentle with your child you respect them and engender a feeling of safety. By taking them gently by the hand to the ‘naughty corner’ or to get dressed when they resist, you tell them you care and that you need them to do what you’re asking.
The disadvantage of yelling
I imagine all parents yell at some time. The problem is that this is quite exciting
behavior. When your child is trying to get your attention, yelling at them is very satisfying as they get your full attention and a big reaction. Their reaction to getting what they want is to yell back at you. I found with my child when I used yelling to get their attention (after a few requests in a speaking voice) there were two unpalatable consequences. My child yelled at me and others for everything they wanted the first time, and they didn’t listen to anything I said unless I yelled.
By taking a step back and speaking quietly when your child is doing something wrong you can be very effective, as long as your tone is stern. The child learns that you are not impressed, but you are not rewarding their action by an exciting period of (negative) attention. The time to get excited is when they do the right thing.
Get them to articulate
As your child develops they will be frustrated by knowing what they want but not being able to express it yet. This is the source of the 'terrible twos' or toddler tantrums. By encouraging your child to ask for what they want from the beginning you can head off some of those tantrums. If you anticipate the needs of your child and do everything for them, you don't give them a sense of independence. Worse, you let yourself in for the situation where your child expects their needs to be met without needing to articulate them. By telling them what they are asking for and encouraging every new word, you can lessen those frustrating moments for you and your child.
Have predictable consequences
You have to tell your child what you do want in the way of positive behavior. With younger children, redirection to the thing you want usually works.
Once you have a toddler who doesn’t listen, you need another tool. We use a bargaining system; if you do this then we’ll do that. The rewards are TV programs, craft activities, the playground or a walk. Things we would do anyway but which our child loves. We also use 1,2,3 as an attention getter and to prevent time wasting.
This principal when applied to rough play is to ask politely for the child to change their
behavior, or quickly take the thing if they are doing something really wrong, like hitting another child. Let them know what you want, then see if they do it. If not, there is a consequence.
Take them out of the situation
If your child is still doing the wrong thing take them out of the game, get down to their level and give them time out, explaining why. If your child is a victim of bad
behavior, then also take them out of the situation. They rely on you for their safety.
There is a fine line between a child learning to tough it out and for them to feel threatened and unprotected. By monitoring and mentoring your child, you allow them to encounter some of the inevitable knocks of life. With good self esteem, such a child will then stand up for themselves and say “Stop hitting me, I don’t like it”, or they will move away of their own accord.
In my case, I did need to stop my child going to a daycare center and to a playgroup due to the uncontrolled
behavior of other children. By doing that, my child has learnt to value himself. He knows about consequences and is moving towards self control and self esteem, the corner stones of becoming a valuable member of society.
About the Author: Jane Cashin is a mother of two busy boys, but still finds time to write for http://happybub.com,
a site where parents and parents-to-be can share and gain experience about
positive, natural and happy pregnancy, childbirth and baby