Why are some children seemingly aggressive?

Why do we get so angry? Why is it hard to be patient once we are annoyed? Why do some children become aggressive when they hear "no"?

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Anxiety, worry and stress all have something in common. They are all chemical reactions in the brain. Everything we experience is physiological. When the brain experiences a stressor it responds with a rush of chemicals (fight/flight) which we FEEL as stress and worry. This can also lead to anger and anxiety.

In health psychology, a "stressor" is anything that interrupts the expectations of the brain. (so, that moment you think "oh sh*t!" yep.. that's a stressor)

The brain searches for stressors as a safety technique. Its job is to keep you alive! This means that when you go through a stressor your brain (unconsciously) is drawn towards anything that you interpret as stressful. This is why our feelings intensify. Our thoughts are all focusing in on problem areas. (*Thousands of years in human history, this habit of the brain saved us from lions and bears. Now, it is still working for us, but not always as appreciated lol)

Let’s say you get home from work and as soon as you walk in the door you see a dirty diaper on the carpet. You stare at it for a moment, then roll your eyes and pick it up. Now your brain is in red alert. It is seeking more stressors as to keep you aware of potential “dangers”. This all goes back to our biology. Guess what, you’re now noticing dishes in the sink, a backpack on the floor and the sound of kids arguing in their room. You are becoming more and more annoyed with the chaos that is home, until finally, you reach boiling point and yell at the kids to be quiet!

Everything you have just experienced in this example took place in your brain.

I want to draw our attention to the exact moment that your day went from “Finally home!” to “Ugh, these kids are so messy.” This tiny change of perspective, will affect the course of actions you are about to take making the day either wonderful or awful.

Maybe you spotted it.

It was the brief moment that your brain went through the decision-making process. You waited a fraction of a second and then reached down for the dirty diaper. When the brain experiences a stressor there is a pause. A pause that says, “What do I do now?” That hesitation starts a chain reaction of chemicals and the thoughts come flooding in.

For a brain that is present in the moment and has skills in solving problems, this flood of information is very useful and can be a beneficial experience. However, for a brain that is out of practice of being mindful, it can be downright devastating. 

Think about how a child might respond to hearing “No” for the first time. Oh, this is a doozy! We’ve all been there.

Screaming, back talk and tantrums are all chemical reactions in the brain to stressors. Their little brains are on high alert and all they can see is the stressor. This is why reasoning with children, and even some adults, can be very difficult. 

Later in these thirty days I will be sharing simple steps any parent can take to support their little one through this chemical milkshake.

The true power lies in recognizing the decision we make for ourselves. The decision we rarely even notice taking place. True mindfulness is when we CHOOSE that decision. Most people do not choose, they fall back on a habit, a learned reaction that goes unnoticed.

Do you remember a time when you reacted without thinking? How about a hundred times you reacted without thinking? 

How many of those times did you feel regret?

“I can’t believe I just yelled.”
“I really wish I hadn’t ran that red light.”
“Why did I get so mad? That’s not like me!”

You are not alone. I hear this all the time from my clients. (Who am I kidding? I feel this way just as much as you do!)

Last night when I was getting ready for bed I stubbed my toe on the dresser. Now, we all know how much that tiny toe can hurt when properly stubbed! Without even thinking I cursed loudly. I sat onto the bed and started rubbing my toe. My husband came in to see what was happening and I immediately started having a go at him about the back yard.

You see, earlier that week I had asked him to clean the barbecue and courtyard area for when we had family over on the weekend. Well, needless to say, he hadn’t cleaned anything in the back yard and this was the ideal time to bring it up!

Ok, maybe not the “ideal” time… As a matter of fact, why in the world was I thinking about that at ten thirty at night while on my bed massaging my toe?

My brain was seeking out stressors (problems). Any ammunition to keep me “safe” from harm. Good ole brain. Always there for me. Always making me sound crazy in front of my husband.

The brain is drawn to “problems” or triggers because its job is to keep us as far away from them as possible. 

So, this is the bad news. As lovely as it is that it keeps us safe and alive… it also stops us from doing anything that challenges us.


That challenges us.

Feeling nervous about an interview? Thank your noodle.

Feeling like staying in bed all day and avoiding work? Thank your noodle.

Feeling angry about spilling coffee on your new shirt? Thank your noodle.

The real problem with this aspect of our brain is that life IS challenging. Living a full life is going to bend us. Bending hurts. And the ole noodle will do everything it can to avoid being bent. This is where self-doubt, stress and worry come from. The brain’s chivalrous attempt to protect us is what messes us up. Thanks brain!

And that’s it. Your brain hates you, the end.

Just kidding! Let’s get to the good stuff now. What can we do to reduce stress, self-doubt and worry?

I’m so glad you asked! And by the way, if you haven’t run away yet from all this brainy talk, well done. It’s awesome that you are here and reading this. I’m about to blow your mind with how easy it is to change your life.

Stay tuned!

Did you find this post helpful? Please share it with anyone you think may benefit! 

Your behaviour guide and coach, Stephanie Wicker-Campbell, has been supporting families just like yours for almost fifteen years! Teaching special needs children and studying early intensive behaviour intervention for over six years laid the foundation for her work with Simply Kids. Grounded in behaviour science, Stephanie's passion for counselling and developmental psychology play a big role in her coaching programs. Defining success by the progress of her clients, her goal is to no longer be needed. So, get in touch and work her out of a job!

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Stephanie Wicker