I’m sorry it’s taken me a few days to get back to you. I’m so glad that Laura reached out to you!
So..YES – it can be so tough to listen to a kiddo when they are aggressive. I second Laura’s recommendation of the No More Hitting Self-Guided Course. You will get bits and pieces of that course delivered to you in the weekly Parenting Club emails. But in the course, itself, Patty really lays it out step-by-step.
Helping Your Child with Aggressive Behaviors
Patty starts by explaining that an aggressive child is a SCARED child. Some of us know how that FEAR got packed in their emotional processing center or emotional backpack – hard birth, early medical intervention or early childhood trauma – but some of us don’t. It doesn’t really matter. Fear is Fear. I’m sure you remember Patty talking about fear in terms of children having trouble sleeping.
Nothing shuts our brain down faster than fear. We literallycannot think and we have no access to the language logical part of our brain. So, your daughter seems to “agree” that she can stop and as soon as you let go, she lashes out again. That’s the fear. She tries to tamp it down, but as soon as you let go, it grabs her again.
What your daughter needs – what her nervous system is asking for – is for you to contain her, as you have been doing, so that she can kick and thrash and scream and FIGHT FOR HER LIFE. A child who is aggressive and physically out of control is SCARED OUT OF THEIR MIND. Even though she protests loudly, she is desperate for someone to help her stop in a way that won’t pour more fear into her already scared mind.
You can imagine, too, that the fear is like a wall or tower of isolation and she’s stuck in there. She needs you to let her blast through that wall, so that she can get to the sadness and grief that is underneath the fear.
You will have to get a lot of Listening Time in order to do this. If you do not have a Listening Partner, yet, you need to get one – or several. In order for us to see that aggression as fear – and see that they are drowning in that fear – we have to be getting regular listening time so that we can offload our own fear, and so that we can ANCHOR our scared kiddo in our love and attention as they fight for their life. You being calm and reassuring will also help your 2 yr old to know that all is well.
Something I recommend is: if you can set up an in-person Listening Partnership, that you might ask them to contain you or you could contain them as they fight. This will give you a sense of how you can keep your daughter safe and and still provide great tenderness and reassurance that you are there and that she will get through this Emotional Bad Dream. This could be something you and your husband could do for each other. Practice tenderly containing each other, while one person fights for their life.
Although I’ve just focused on your Staylistening with her, you’ve probably heard that our Tools work best when used in tandem. This is particularly true when a kiddo is working on fear. You want to counter the fear with lots of SPECIAL TIME and Rough’n’Tumble Play where you take the LESS powerful role. This will increase her sense of safety and connection and counter her feelings of powerlessness. It will also keep your relationship in balance. LAUGHTER is also offloading fear, so try to set more Limits playfully, using PLAYLISTENING. That way it won’t feel like you are always having to Staylisten to stop the aggression. Laughter will help your whole family – including your 2 yr old. Laughter always makes parenting go easier!
Fear is one of the biggest Emotional Projects a kiddo can have. Your daughter is so fortunate that you are willing to listen to her big big expressions of fear. Using all the Tools together: YOU getting Listening Time, putting in more Laughter and Play and, then when you do have to stop her – letting her fight for her life – I think that combination will start to shift things for all of you.
You are awesome parents. Please let us know what you discover on this journey and keep reaching out.
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
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“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi