So maybe you got the call from the preschool about biting or hitting. Or maybe you would just like to take your child to the park without another parent giving you “the look” because your child keeps shoving others to the ground. The good news is that you are in the right place.
Before we show you some ways to reduce aggression, we need to understand why it happens. For those answers, we need to learn about the brain. In aggressive kids, they often spend more time in survival (or fight/flight) mode. This means that their brains are often on edge, and they react to any little thing in the environment.
Imagine walking through the woods in the middle of the night. You are alone. You don’t know where you are going, you don’t have a cell phone or any supplies. Think about what you would be thinking and feeling. Then you hear a stick crack in the distance. Would you jump? Would you scream?
This is often what it feels like for children who struggle with impulse control. Their brains are turned on HIGH to fight/flight mode. So even when something ‘normal” happens such as a child running by them, they may react aggressively.
The brain has many different areas of function. The lower brain functions relate more to survival, spinal cord information, and sensory functions. The higher brain centers related to higher levels of thinking, executive functioning skills, organization, reasoning, problem-solving, and coordinated motor function.
It is important for the lower brain functions to have strong connections in order for the higher levels of the brain to function at their full potential. This means that children and adults who struggle with impulse control can improve these traits by building stronger neurological connections. When the brain isn’t spending as much time in survival mode (fight/flight mode), the higher brain levels can operate easier and override the survival instincts. Stronger lower brain connections mean that we can help them add a “brake” or slow down the aggressive impulses.
How do we improve neurological connections?
Breathing has been shown to decrease anxiety by calming your brain. Breathing can be used to help calm a child before they get too upset, when they are upset, before going into a stressful situation, before bed, or during stressful academic situations.
By incorporating regular focused breathing into your daily routine you can help to calm the brain and decrease impulsivity. Even spending five minutes a day practicing deep, focused breathing can help to calm the mind.
It is important to know that the brain receives information from the sensory system and the motor system (the muscles). The brain sorts through this information and what you see as a result of this processing is behavior. The circuit begins when the baby is still in the womb and continues throughout the life cycle. Sometimes this cycle
A baby first begins to build their muscles, neurological system, and brain while they are still in the womb. Infant movements lay the foundation for the neurological system. As you may notice each baby will lift their head, roll over, sit, crawl, stand, and then walk. This is a typical development pattern and as the baby’s brain and the neurological system gets stronger they become more coordinated.
These movement patterns also help the brain to understand the world around them and to take in information for their sensory system (visual, hearing, taste, touch, smell, vestibular, proprioception, and interoception). Making sure children move every day is vital to building a strong neurological foundation. You can support movement in a few ways:
Movement through team sports provides brain stimulation, builds brain connections, as well as social skills. Children who play team sports learn about teamwork, rules, and how to communicate.
According to research, free play is important because it can give the brain a chance to be creative and can help to wire the pre-frontal cortex. This means that it can help thinking and help to learn.
What are S.A.M. movements? At Movement Matters ® we use S.A.M. (or sensory and motor) movements to build the brain. This means that we use specific movements for targeting specific behaviors. S.A.M. movements use both the sensory and motor systems to build the brain.
How can meditation help? Meditation can reduce anxiety and stress in the brain. It can also calm down the brain area that is responsible for wandering thoughts, and this can improve focus and attention. Multiple studies have shown a connection between an increase in meditation and a decrease in ADHD symptoms including attention and focus. Finally, meditation has been shown to actually increase growth in learning and concentration areas of the brain.
You may be thinking “How do I get my wild child to meditate?” The answer may be a guided meditation. You can access these using your phone or computer.
Here are a few that we like for kids:
Sleep meditation for children
Guided meditation for happiness for children
Guided meditation for children
Don’t get overwhelmed by aggressive behavior. Working to implement breathing, movement, and meditation into your daily routine will help to improve impulse control and decrease aggressive behaviors. If you are interested in learning more specific tips and tricks to build the brain and improve behavior visit MovementMatters.com to learn more.