This is a picture of me at two and a half, about to careen down an unsecured, hot metal slide with essentially no sides and the adult in charge of my safety standing fifteen feet away with a camera in his hands. I grew up before the term helicopter parenting existed, raised by a stay at home dad who taught me how to play five card draw, how to fight (a shot straight to the nose and they’re in too much pain to fight back), and encouraged sibling love by having us compete for the most pull-ups on a bar hung from the maple tree in our backyard. Add to that genetics and a grandfather who was known to kick people’s asses for offenses ranging from pointing out his short stature to breathing wrong and you can imagine that I was an aggressive kid.
I have a master’s degree in psychological services in education from a snooty Ivy League school so at this point in the post you might expect me to write at length about the causes of childhood aggression as well as the very clinical strategies for ending said aggression. But I’m not going to do that and here is why. It’s okay that
some many most kids have aggressive moments.
Recently a friend shared that his two plus year old son had a not so pleasant moment in public where he brought the baby smack down to another little one who had gotten too close to his personal space (i.e. the store’s public play area). This doesn’t mean that his child is destined for a lifetime of brawls, but instead shows that his little guy had a moment of extreme frustration and chose to act out physically. In his tiny two year old tool kit, a slap/hit/punch/kick/bite was the most effective strategy to communicate the message he needed to convey – “Back up off of my stuff, yo.” As he grows and finds other coping strategies, that physical aggression will be replaced with age appropriate reactions to pushy babies…when they are age appropriate. For example, I can now throat punch people (in my mind) with careful word choice, deep breaths, my ability to walk away, and dark chocolate. In fact, I’d bet that very few of us who were known for some major butt kicking as children now find ourselves in fist fights, and only a small percentage of us required years of therapy and pharmaceuticals to get there.
So parents, hang in there, stop apologizing, stop beating yourself up, and take heart – I haven’t punched anyone since junior high. I promise it gets better.