Anger and aggressive feelings are unavoidable for all of us - children and adults. These emotions play a big role in early development and cannot be swept under the rug. Anger is an essential part of the human drama. It is as important to psychological growth as love and warmth. As long as angry and aggressive feelings are balanced with feelings of closeness and empathy and are well regulated, they can do us an enormous amount of good. They can energize us and motivate us to do more than we thought possible. They fuel our ambitions, spur us to set goals for ourselves, encourage us to achieve and accomplish. They even help us define our sense of self - who we are and what our boundaries are. My colleague Peter Neubauer has observed that angry and rivalrous feelings often help us differentiate ourselves from others. When you're upset or feeling competitive with someone, you certainly know where you stop and the other person begins. Children need to acknowledge the full range of feelings, including the angry ones, so that these emotions can become part of their evolving sense of themselves. Then they can become integrated people - capable of being competitive as well as nurturing, assertive as well as loving.
Children who tend to be aggressive, just like children who tend to be sensitive or withdrawn, vary considerably. Some may be aggressive because they are frustrated and highly sensitive. Other children may be aggressive because they crave lots of sensory input. Whatever the cause, aggression in a child can tax us to our limits. But if we can understand the underlying physical and emotional reasons, we can use it as an opportunity to help the child grow and develop emotionally.
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