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24 Mar 2023, Edition - 2810, Friday

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Why do children turn aggressive?

Swathi Priya. P

Image credit : Illustrative Image


My experiences with aggressive kids:

I have had opportunities to work with children from different spheres of life as consultant at convents, corporation and international schools. I am sharing a few experiences so as to create awareness about what causes aggression in children.

I had worked with Riya (name changed), a 14-year-old student of a convent school. She was sent to me after complaints of being hostile to teachers and students. She expressed her anger by not bringing books to school, not completing homework and back-answering teachers. She would not talk to her classmates and used to give rude replies to them.

Working with her taught me a lot. I tried to analyse during my counseling sessions as to why she behaved thus. Riya had an unhappy home environment – her father was an alcoholic physically abused all at home. He would beat Riya, her mother and other siblings. He had an extra-marital affair and stayed away from home and paying the home bills. Riya’s mother like a single parent handled different tasks. The child was feeling very bad for the plight of her mother and bottled up a lot of anger towards the father which was let out at wrong places.

I had to speak to her mother to bring in a change in the home environment.

I had worked with 12-year-old Cathy (name changed) also from a convent school. The complaint was that she used to bite children when she got angry. I found that Cathy was suffering due to mental instability. She had weird imaginations of destruction happening to her and others like kidnap, rape or murder. She was in a state of illusion. These symptoms show that the reason behind the child’s aggression can be a mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. The child was referred to a psychiatrist for medical evaluation and treatment.

Suhil (name changed), an 11-year-old from a corporation school was sent to me for complaints of hitting and kicking other children in the playground. When I asked him why he behaved thus, the answer shocked me. “Anger is the quality of a man,” he said. I asked him what made him think this way and I found that the child was modelling a Tamil movie star who displayed a lot of aggression on screen. This star has mass followers and most children love him and get carried away by his stunt and punch dialogues. I had to reinforce him repeatedly in my sessions that motivation and inspiration are the qualities of a man and not anger.

Six-year-old Mithun from an international school used to hit children, throw books and pencils at them and even tear their notebooks. I did find that he was restless in class, moved around in the classroom while the teacher taught, did not pay attention to instructions and also did not write. I worked with the child found that he had problems with sustaining attention and concentration which needed to be addressed.

In all these cases children had an unhappy home environment due to parental conflicts, alcoholism, physical abuse, psychiatric illness, role modelling figures and cognitive disturbances which led to aggression.

In the recent shocking violent incident where a 16-year-old murdered a seven-year-old, the reason could be any of those mentioned. If a child displays aggression we need to find the root cause and address it at the start itself so that it will not lead to destructive violent behaviour later.

As responsible adults, parents and teachers have an important role to play in shaping a child.

The author of the column is Swathi Priya. P

Counselling Psychologist

[email protected]


Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own

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