Helping kids with their aggressive impulses

Got a crazy/ aggressive kid in the house? I had this ninja mindful mom moment the other day and thought I’d share, bc, well, it’s been a while 🙂.

So Ethan, my 3.5yo, got a new skooter and set out to master it on the heels of his bro (who has become a skooter pro). After doing a great job and figuring out the basics, Ethan started getting really frustrated that he couldn’t do a fast turn like his bro. So he started hitting the skooter, even picked it up to throw it 😡

After grabbing it out of the air, I had this crazy moment of clarity.

Well, at first I heard my mind want to start coaching him about how his brother was no good at first too, and how he can’t give up/ it’s all about trying and practice, and he def can’t throw his skooter just bc he was mad, yada yada. But instead I caught myself and decided to just echo back what he was feeling.

I started off saying ‘wow Ethan, you’re feeling really frustrated that you can’t do the same trick as your brother huh?’ I suggested he stomp his feet and thrust his hands in the air to show how frustrated he was feeling (acknowledging that he did need to release all that frustration, instead of making him think he was being a ‘bad boy’ for doing something that is a natural tendency when we get mad; I mean, how many adults do you know that have broken something in their house out of anger? 🙋🏼‍♀️).

I continued helping him give words to what he was feeling... feeling mad, frustrated, disappointed, because he really wanted to be great and do the same stuff as his brother...

And then after only about a minute or 2, he calmly took the skooter and said ‘I’m going to keep trying’ and joyfully continued riding up the hill learning new tricks (with me giddily cheering him on from behind 😁).

Here’s my cliffnotes version:

1. be mindful and recognize mind’s initial reaction to the thing that he’s doing... get over thought that anger is bad, or he is bad and needs to be admonished for throwing the new skooter

2. Honor his feelings by reflecting them back to him/ giving him words to express the emotions

3. Give him an outlet for releasing the emotion. Could have been crying, but Ethan’s a physical kid, so he needs to release through his body

4. Allow him to feel and process and release the emotion, so he can return to his center/ get regrounded, and be open again to receiving guidance from his own source of inner strength.

One more thing to share, if you also have a physical kid (ie, likes to hit his brother or parents, for no apparent reason) - I’ve been doing this thing with Ethan when he first starts going down the hitting spiral (assuming I can catch him before he’s actually done real physical harm... there does always seem to be an escalation, albeit sometimes only seconds...). I ask him, hey, do you want to wrestle with me? Then we throw pillows at each other, or go to our safe zone in the basement (an old mattress) where he can play-push me (no kicking or hitting allowed) and just get it all out (always results in lots of belly laughs for both of us..).

I used to think that doing something like that would train him to start hitting just to get some attention from me, but 1) it’s on me if my kid needs to resort to that to get 1-1 time (ie, just a sign I haven’t given him enough recently) and 2) he’s 3, and like all kids he is just a kid, figuring stuff out & reacting with the limited pre-frontal cortex he’s got at this age, so throw him a bone and trust that he’s really not evil, he’s just temporarily insane 🙂 (as we all get from time to time when we aren’t feeling connected or grounded or had enough sleep or physical exercise, etc).

Ok, that’s all. Thx for listening to this episode of mindful mom 2, crazy reactive mom, 100