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Life and Religion

Tips on how to reduce childhood aggression
Detect cause and design coping strategies
 
Published Thursday, October 25, 2012 12:00 pm
by Wesley Carter

My sonís extreme aggression is making it difficult for him to form positive relationships in elementary school. He has always been in conflict with his peers and I worry that he will grow up friendless. What can I do?

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Wesley Carter


Most referrals of children to mental health clinics are due to aggression and antisocial behavior. Aggression in children can be the result of medical or emotional imbalance. Before moving forward, have your son evaluated to rule out conditions requiring medical intervention. If his behavior is medical-related, his physician will work with you to intervene.


If your sonís physician attributes his behavior to inadequate social skills, there are a few strategies that can help him learn how to build and protect relationships. There are counselors who work specifically with children experiencing antisocial behaviors.  Ask your sonís physician for a referral. Be sure of ask if your insurance will cover some or all of the cost. If you do not have insurance, inquire about alternative sources of support.


Assess your sonís home environment to identify circumstances that could be influencing his behavior. Domestic violence, sibling conflict, violent television programming, inappropriate music, and insecurity are just a few of the possible causes of aggression in children. Eliminate all negative influences at home.


Inconsistent and harsh parenting styles tend to negatively influence behavior. Evaluate your own parenting style to determine if you are unwittingly modeling ineffective coping strategies for your son. If so, identify and enroll in parenting classes at your sonís school, church, or a local mental health agency. Do not be embarrassed about enrolling in parenting classes. Successful parents continuously take advantage of opportunities to improve their parenting skills.


In addition to parenting classes, schedule an appointment with your sonís teacher to get his/her perspective. Partner with the teacher to create consistent messaging and approaches to helping your son learn how to cope with frustration and reduce impulsivity. Productive parent-teacher partnerships are powerful.


Your sonís teacher has probably encountered aggressive students in the past and can share those experiences with you. In addition, if your son is being bullied or experiencing other challenges that might be having a negative impact on his behavior, his teacher can help you identify the cause. Sometimes, simply changing the environment is enough to reverse negative behavior.


The application of the Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving, also referred to as, I Can Problem Solve model developed in 1968 by George Spivey and Myrna Shure, has been effective in reducing or preventing aggression in children.  According to Spivey and Shure, ICPS is a three-step strategy consisting of generating multiple solutions, evaluating the consequences of each solution, and identifying the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that could spur interpersonal conflict.


ICPS is a school-based program, focusing on helping children develop social skills. However, as a parent your intervention will increase the effectiveness of the application. The key to ICPS is teaching your son how to think through conflict, instead of teaching him what to think. The ICPS program is not ďpreachy." Instead, the ICPS program uses games, stories, puppets, and role-plays to reinforce lessons.
Consistently remind your son that he is incredibly capable of developing the skills necessary to improve his relationships.


WESLEY CARTER D.M., founder and CEO of Kids by Carter, provides guidance to parents. Submit your questions to wesley@kidsbycarter.com Visit www.kidsbycarter.com and follow on Twitter @kidsbydrcarter.


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