Are Boys Naturally More Aggressive – Part Three
In my last post on the topic I asked:
What is aggression? Is it really aggression? And, I suggested that what we call aggressive behaviour might be better described by three distinct, though surely related categories:
1) Reaction Against or Result Of Injustice
2) Emulation and Processing of Society’s Rules and Roles
3) Need to make an Impact or Contribution
Reaction Against or Result Of Injustice
(Or Empathizing with Our Sons’ Hidden Needs)
Children who exhibit aggressive behaviour such as biting, pushing, kicking, slamming doors, screaming etc. are usually reacting to a perceived injustice or hurt from a friend or parent. This may be a result of lack of verbal skills or of needs unmet: an over-tired, over-stimulated, under-fed, or under-nurtured child, and/or simply a child’s only way of expressing frustration at the difficult task of life. In other words, it may be a way of getting attention. But how do we as parents perceive this?
“Children need love the most when they are acting the most unlovable.” Erma Bombeck
Are they demanding too much attention as if this is something wrong? Are they simply asking for help in the only way they know how? Perhaps they actually need this attention, this help. Children who do not get the positive attention they need will often seek out negative attention as the next best option.
So, are we at fault for not giving them the attention they need? What about giving toys, tv or other replacements for our attention – or replacements for valuable learning opportunities? The grumpy child at the grocery store check out counter who’s whining for candy is handed the i pod to distract / occupy him instead of being engaged by his/her parent and given tools to learn skills such as patience or how to participate more in what’s going on. In my opinion, we are at fault, though of course there is a balance, and we have our own needs as well…. Using TV or toys to distract a child will only make things worse. A child would rather have a playmate, one-on-one attention or a loving embrace from a caring adult who might, not only interact with him/her but also guide their child towards greater self-management and executive function. Telling your child s/he is bad or wrong to have unmet needs will also not diminish the so-called problem behaviour or reduce the need.
I have found that the use of Non Violent Communication with it’s expression of perceived needs and the willingness to help meet them extremely useful to help children through many frustrations.
Check out these two articles and the book:
Grabbing Our Way to Peace:
Responding to Tugs of War and Other Battles of Daily Life by Inbal Kashtan at
Emotions are Not Bad Behavior by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting at (and many other great articles)
Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way
by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD
Interestingly, I have not focused on boys being more trouble here than girls. What stands out for me now that I’ve reread the articles on Jan Hunt‘s The Natural Child Project website is that we do tend to attribute problematic aggressive behaviour more to boys, and are therefore more likely to brush it off as ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘he’s so rough’, rather than trying to empathize with our sons’ hidden needs, modeling the tools to express those needs, and allowing those needs – such as vulnerability, shyness, fear of pain to be ok.