This blog post has been contributed by Aditi Dutta.
I recently heard about an instance where a neighbourhood teenage bully beat up a younger boy for something petty. Worse still, when the boy’s mother complained to the teenage boy’s parents, they did not seem equipped to handle the situation. They seemed helpless in that situation. To me, it sounded like the teenager’s parents themselves needed some help before they could help their boy. Also, it was probably already a little late in the day to easily change such aggressive behaviour. I could almost picture the teenager turning into a goon or a criminal if his parents did not try to change his ways.
Sometimes people tend to say ‘boys will be boys’. There is a certain level of acceptance for aggressive behaviour in boys. Especially, when they are much younger, say around five or so, parents may not discipline them believing them to be too young. But, the truth is that if we do not stop them young, it will only get harder to change these behaviours later. We must inculcate the right behaviours and values when they are young. I believe that discipline is the best gift we can give to our children, that too without straining our vocal cords or limbs.
Every time my own children (both under 5) engage in aggressive behaviour I am reminded of the incident and I try to discourage aggressive behaviour by doing a few simple things. I understand that while it is natural to feel angry, we need to teach them safe ways to let go of that anger, without hurting themselves or others. I use simple stories and examples to explain to them that hurting others is not acceptable. That they are hurting the others if they hit them or push them. More importantly I tell them about the right way to express their feelings in words and sort it out.
Sometimes the urge to react aggressively against such behaviour may creep up in us as well but it is essential to stay calm. It is best to help our children correctly identify their feelings and teach them to express themselves verbally. Also, we must appreciate them when they show the right behaviour. One thing that has always worked for me is lowering my voice when my kid shouts in anger. A softer voice has always worked much better than the times I shouted back.