As a mom of 3 boys I am very familiar with male aggression. My eldest son was 2 yrs old when he was almost kicked out of his mother’s day out program for biting (just had my second child…losing my childcare was not something I was excited about).
My middle son was not as aggressive as the first, but still went through a hitting and biting phase when he was about 2 years. I think it was “nipped in the bud” when we switch schools mid-year. Now he tends to use his aggression on destroying things in our home, not hurting others.
Enter boy #3…who just turned two last week and has already been kicked out of the childcare at our gym for biting a total of 4x. The other week we were at the zoo and he just walked up to a little boy and hit him with both hands…right in the face! (= one mortified momma)
Have I told you that I care what people think (aka pride)? I don’t want other parents to think I am a “bad mom” because my children are violent. I want boys who are kind to their friends, share toys, play quietly…right?
But WILD is written in the heart of boys. They were created to hunt, to explore, to battle. I have to reconcile the need to teach them to behave in public while allowing them to be who God created them to be. Here are some things I’ve learned about helping your boys be boys but decrease the public humility (as much as possible):
1) Allow your boys time to be wild:
- adventures in the backyard (short adventures when it is hot outside)
- taking all the cushions off the couch and battling for king of the “hill”
- light saber or pirate battles (make soft weapons with pool noodles cut in half and a “handle” wrapped in duct tape)
- wrestling with dad
2) Do not over-schedule your day with activities that require “good” behavior
3) Establish rules on how to control aggression:
- Do not hit or bite out of anger.
- No battles with swords/ light sabers/etc unless the other party is willing and also has a weapon.
- If someone says “stop” or “no”, you must listen to their safety words.
4) If someone is hurt in an altercation, teach them how to ask for forgiveness, make sure the person is okay and display compassion.
5) Teach them how to handle their anger in a constructive way:
- Use words instead of hands to communicate (saying “stop”)
- Ask if you can have a turn with a toy when they are finished
- Do a “switch” with a toy of interest (bringing a better toy to be switched with the desired toy)
- If need to express anger physically, have him stomp his feet instead of hit when he is frustrated.
6) Allow the boys to work out disagreements in their play (unless there is blood involved).
7) If you only have one boy, find a good friend of your sons who also likes to be aggressive. Plan a one-on-one playdate where they can be free to be wild without constantly being in trouble.
My boys are still going to act out in aggression in public. Fortunately it’s not my first rodeo and I can take a step back and realize my job is to shape their hearts, teach them to be kind, teach them self-control, and give them grace in the training process.