At first glance, these A,B,C,D’s aren’t very cheery; in fact, they could be perceived as downright depressing. Just reading these words might make you want to go back to bed or find a fairy tale version of parenting in which you know the ending will be “and they lived happily ever-after. The end.” Then you can exhale.
As I tell my parents at Grace Academy of North Texas, life today in the parenting lane is fast. So let’s find some defensive driving tips for handling aggression.
A: Alertness, attention, and awareness. As a parent, you have to be alert to the dangers of the potential aggression coming at your child. Before you pull on your Momma and Poppa Bear gloves and get ready to fight, let’s assess them.
- Aggression abounds in our culture. Pay attention to the messages your child may be getting from television, commercials, video games and even friends.
- Be alert and establish a bully-free environment in your own home by cultivating a spirit in your family that says I love you, trust you, hear you, value you, respect you, believe in you, and am here for you. I want you to feel safe.
- Set a zero-tolerance level on bullying by holding your child accountable for offensive behaviors, enforcing appropriate repercussions related to offenses, and providing opportunities for your child to make restitution.
- Monitor aggressive video games, movies and television programs, social relationships, music, and music videos.
B: Bullies, Bystanders, and Bullied. There is an excellent book, The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander by Barbara Coloroso. I heartily recommend it for parents. Sometimes we are so busy looking for the big bad bully who might hurt our child that we neglect to look in our own backyard. Of course, we are sure our child could never be the bully. This book gently helps you look for signs in case it is your child. Gulp. I know, time to get another cup of coffee.
But, bystander. This is the one we tend not to think about: the child who stands by and lets another bully a friend or get bullied. This book addresses the signs and what to do about it.
And, of course, the bullied – every parent’s worst nightmare. What to do, how to handle it and where to go for help: June Hunt and I address the complexities of this issue in our book Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries.
C: Connections, Communication and Conflict Resolution. Everyone wants to feel connected – it is one of our primary needs. So, we communicate. And because we are human, we sometimes have conflicts. It’s a conundrum.
Communicate with your children; the dinner table is a good place to start this dialogue. Allow each person to share about their day – the highs and the lows. Encourage your children to be detectives. “Look for ways in which television, commercials, billboards, video games and even your friends, tried to get your thinking to go a certain way. What did they want you to think? Do you actually agree with it? What do you believe? Why?” You want children who have convictions and can articulate what they believe.
Conflict resolution is a life skill. If we teach it to our children when they are young, we can help them not to resort to being a bully with their hands or words, in order to get what they want.
D: Discipline, Decide, and Determine. Oh dear, there’s that pesky word…discipline. That’s the part of our parental job description we would like to skip right over, isn’t it? But when we decide to establish boundaries with the issues that are important, and determine consequences for crossing over those boundaries, parenting can become more joyful.
Let’s say that your little cherub has decided to be a little bully with his fists or her words. Or, you discover that your teen is using the computer or cell phone to ruin someone’s reputation via cyberspace. These actions require strong responses on your part – not emotional reactions, but carefully thought-through responses.
― Decide on a consequence for each that is related to the deed. The purpose of a consequence is to retrain the brain and transform the heart. For the little one who used his fists to get a point across, he can now find three ways to use his hands to help, serve, and love that person.
― For the little darlin’ who used her words to gossip and malign, she needs to go out of her way to use her words to encourage and edify that person.
― The teen needs to know that you will have a “Sherlock Home”: you will inspect what you expect. Cell phones, texting, and computer trails may be followed at a moment’s notice. But more importantly is the heart. Help your teen move to sincere repentance and restitution with the other person.
Be a proactive parent. Model to your children and teens by showing them kindness, being considerate, expressing unconditional love, and listening attentively. Establish boundaries that are defined, fair, clearly communicated, and consistently enforced in a respectful manner. Create a home in which you are attentive to aggression, establishing boundaries, teaching communication skills, and providing desirable discipline. You can do it, one step at a time…A-B-C-D!