I recently wrote a post about verbal aggression and I wanted to add a few extra thoughts.
I personally think that the problem with aggressive discipline methods is the escalation factor i.e. You have to be prepared to take it to the next level.
When you are using aggressive discipline techniques the next level is one step closer to physical violence.
I feel that all forms of aggressive discipline (physical and verbal) are part of the same slippery slope of violence that begins with aggressive body language, threats and shouting and goes all the way through to physical violence and then at the other extreme – global thermonuclear war.
I guess what I mean by the term ‘aggressive discipline’ is where fear and anger are primarily used as a motivating force.
If you have a particularly willful child then you can find yourself backed into a corner
where you have to physically force your child to comply with your demands or let them win the battle. Either way you lose.
We recently went through a stage where our little one was lashing out and scratching at our faces. It made us angry primarily because it really hurt and it left us looking like we had been in a cat fight. Not good at all.
When you are attacked by anyone your natural reaction is to stop that attack by any means necessary even if the assailant is a three year old.
When we stop the attack by pure physical dominance are we teaching them to deal with situations physically and that might
really is right?
One of the comments from the original article (Kate) said that she had an instance where
her natural reaction to being hit by her toddler was to retaliate with a smack whilst
simultaneously saying “don’t hit” and how confusing that must be for them.
I have seen this kind of thing happen all the time and I even wrote something on this in a
earlier post called should you spank your child. We spank them for hitting us and yell at
them for shouting at us. Confusing or what?
We had the same issue until we figured out that it was the reaction that our daughter was
looking for. She was able to cause a strong reaction in us through her behavior and we were too busy acting in self defense and anger (i.e reaction) to be able to deal with the
The best short term solution for us in this instance was to try to stop her from hurting
us without hurting her or having to restrain her in any way. I know it sounds like a pipe
dream but I really want to try to keep the physicality out of it if possible.
We had to stop her attacks from hurting us. That way we would be less likely to react in
self defense and be better able to control our response. The only thing we could think of
was to take away her weapons. We had to keep her nails really short.
With her fingers no longer sharpened talons I was better able to let her claw at my face
without any fear of injury and as I wasn’t injured by her actions, I didn’t get angry or
feel the urge to retaliate. I was able to let the attack happen.
She was a little surprised at my non reaction and when she stopped clawing at me I just
looked at her with a sad face and asked her why she was hurting me.
She looked back for a few seconds and then hastily gave me a hug and said “Sorry Daddy – I love you” and that was pretty much the end of the scratching.
There has only been one more incident of face scratching since then. She had not done it
for ages and we had become a little complacent on the manicure side of things. She of course chose the time when her nails were at their longest and most dangerous and so I had to take a hit.
Fortunately I was able to passively withstand the onslaught and repeat the procedure as
described above. This time she was even more remorseful, especially when she saw the big
cat scratch down the middle of poor daddy’s face. It hasn’t happened again. Yet.
Additionally worth mentioning is a SBS documentary regarding the nature of violence that I recently watched. Studies show that children under the age of three have absolutely no
control over their natural violent impulses.
If they can’t help but lash out when they feel the urge to then how is it possible to
discipline that behaviour? More so how can one seriously curb violent reactions in children by punishing them with the exact behaviour that you are trying to eradicate?
Once again I will say that I do not think that anger and fear are constructive teaching
tools. It seems absurd that a lot of us have been taught using these strong emotions as
It is a wonder that our kids (and ourselves) learn anything at all when the consequences
for incorrect behaviour are threats and anger from their most loved ones.
There must be a better way…?