If you are one of the numerous parents I meet everyday, who are puzzled as to why their kids sometimes resort to hitting, shoving or yelling to other people and have deep hopes to maybe find an explanation or tools to support you in managing this behavior with your children in a way that is peaceful and respectful to them, then I believe this article is for you!
I have gathered in this article some of the most popular reasons I found to be behind why sometimes our kids resort to such behavior. I have to point out though that this is not an inclusive list but one that will maybe point you towards the right direction to search more and better understand what’s happening to your child.
So let us start with the simplest and most obvious and work out our way to less obvious reasons;
1- Diet; Yes what your child eats highly influences their behavior and how prone they are for certain actions than others – Food additives, coloring, artificial sugars are all things that contribute to your child’s wellbeing negatively and can definitely influence their behavior in a way that is unfulfilling. I am also aware that for many parents (myself included) it is sometimes very challenging to avoid these ingredients all the time, my recommendation is simply to notice which foods trigger certain behavior in your child and manage his/her intake of it. For example, I try to keep sweets consumption during daytime for my daughter, I know for a fact that when she takes “even a bite of” chocolate at night, her sleep becomes highly affected. Other general recommendations are to replace un-natural, packaged food with more natural/organic foods in a child’s diet. Something that works very well too with younger kids and teenagers are herbal tea’s like anise, chamomile and green tea, these are considered excellent relaxing drinks and very natural.
2- Brain Deregulation; That was one of the things I enjoyed most when learning about how our brain affects our behavior as humans – when a child is going through a situation where they are scared, overwhelmed, shocked, or experiencing an intense rush of emotions, their brains goes into a mode of deregulation. When a brain gets in such a state it goes into a “fight, fright, or flight” mode, which in turn reflects on a child’s behavior. For instance, if you’re in the park with your child and all of a sudden she realizes you’re leaving (without prior warning), the rush of emotions becomes strong and her brain goes into a deregulation state; during this state she is likely to fight (cry, kick, yell) or flight (withdraw, ignore your calling, or be sad silently). During deregulation a child (his/her brain) is unable to reason or discuss things rationally, the executive part of the brain completely shuts down during deregulation making it impossible for your child to listen or reason
3- Lack of Tools; One day my daughter came from school and was telling me how she learned what to do when she gets upset with a friend from class. Her teacher spent some time teaching the class how to count from one to ten while being conscious of their breathing and allow themselves to calm down before doing any action. It was a great tool for a 7 years old girl to learn in school, it actually helped her regulate her brain and calm down before rushing into crying because someone spilled water on her painting for example. My learning here was that my daughter cried when something happened because she didn’t have any other tools to use to channel her emotions in a specific incident. This made me more conscious on exposing her to tools that enable her to solve problems, think of alternatives, and practice empathy when faced with conflict
4- Stressful change/Environment; Children respond to changes in their lives and their environment in diverse ways – aggression is one of them. As a parent notice if your child gets edgy in a specific environment, closed places, super-market, fish market, barber or even an aunt’s house. Another important thing is to take account of whether some kind of change is taking place in your or your child’s life- again kids respond in diverse ways to changes around them. Sometimes the smallest changes trigger feelings for children and hence result in certain actions. Examples of change are changing the furniture at home or even its arrangement, moving to a new house, changing class, changing the nanny, and of course there are bigger types of change that trigger bigger emotions such as parents separation or conflict, family conflict in general, death or having a new brother or sister and/or having a step father come into the picture
5- Modeling behavior; the truth is kids learn a lot of their behavior (especially at a young age) from parents. If you yell, spank, hold your child with roughness they will learn these behaviors too as ways to express emotions of frustration or anger too. Often kids also enjoy modeling their parents as it makes them feel “grown up”- an older brother for example would hit his younger sister as an act of discipline, like mum does. Now as a parent I invite you to give yourself empathy first before going into blame or shaming yourself and when you’re ready I invite you to learn more ways to keep your calm and manage your emotions in a way that meets your needs to contribute positively to your children.
Though these are some of the reasons I found most popular among families I worked with, I still sincerely want to stress on the fact that this list doesn’t stop here. There are diverse other reasons behind why kids sometimes resort to hitting. Some of which are related to their development stage; toddlers for example sometimes kick and bite when excited. Reasons resulting from a child’s needs for security, acceptance, reassurance and/or attention may all lead a child to hitting. I guess the core message behind all of this is to really explore why our kids exhibit certain behaviors than others and what are the feelings and needs behind those behaviors and possibly work with that rather than just trying to change the behavior itself.
Marwa Advocates for freedom, peace, and building compassionate homes.