Turning Aggression in to Calm and Loving Responses :: A Lesson in Expression

Noah is all boy. He showed his aggressive nature quite early, and as soon as he could stand on his own he assumed an offensive football stance. He was born tough, has always been loud, and is afraid of nothing.

Over the years I tried to work with Noah to express his frustrations in more appropriate ways, in hopes we could together control this aggression. But, I never really understood it. I understand frustration in children, but the growling, socking a sibling simply because he walks by them, and many other seemingly combative and angry actions, were unlike any my other boys displayed.

Don’t get me wrong, all of my kids antagonize their siblings. They love each other, but boy, do each of them also love hearing the others squeel. Noah just more often than the others.

I don’t believe Noah has ever intended to be mean. He simply feels the need to assert his strength and will in just about every situation. He wants to be noticed and acknowledged, no matter how he accomplishes this attention. I can only imagine how difficult this is with four older brothers. But, he’s a fighter, a warrior.

One day last week was incredibly difficult for me, as a mom, and for Noah himself. Many times I overheard his older brothers telling Timmy, Noah’s only younger sibling, not to “be like Noah”. Noah is sweet, diligent, helpful, my snuggle bug, and incredibly kind – when he’s not literally fighting for attention. Hearing that his older brothers felt like Timmy would somehow be corrupted by Noah was just heart breaking.

I sat my older kids down and explained to them how their words were affecting Noah, and even Noah and Timmy’s relationship. None of them realized that what they said was hurtful; they really only were just cautioning Timmy against being “loud and crazy like Noah”.

And, then came the opportunity for teachable moments with Noah – more loud and clear than they had ever been.

Noah came home from school and, because Timmy was distracted by Curious George and did not immediately acknowledge him, Noah began picking on him. I stopped Noah and gently asked him why he was doing this. Do you know what he said? “I missed him.”

Noah wanted attention from his brother. Noah was frustrated that Timmy didn’t tell him that he missed him, as he often does whenever he notices any of his family members walk through the front door.

“So, instead of antagonizing him, why don’t you give Timmy a hug and tell him that you miss him?”

The look on Noah’s face questioned whether or not that would really work.

“Try it, bubby.”

Noah did. And Timmy hugged him back and told him that he missed him, too.

It really did work!

And this Mama’s heart exploded.

Later that same day, Julia came home from a friend’s house. Noah walked over to her, but Timmy yelled, “I missed you, Julia”. Julia walked right past Noah, straight to Timmy.

Poor Noah looked as if he was going to cry. I asked him what was wrong, wanting him to articulate his feelings in words. He told me that he hadn’t seen Julia all day and she just ignored him. To preempt his aggression towards Julia, I whispered in his ear, “Go give her a hug and tell her you missed her, too.”

“Okay”, he whispered back, as his doubt screamed in my ear.

Julia glanced at me, shocked, as Noah tackled her with a loving hug. I just smiled and winked at her.


There have been many more instances since that day. Noah has been working hard on showing his feelings in a nice way. A way that results in positive attention and affirmation that his siblings really do love him.

Do you have an aggressive little one? According to Webster’s Dictionary, aggression is “a forceful action… the process of making attacks… hostile, injurious behavior… caused by frustration.” How have you helped your little one express his frustration in a loving way?


  1. says

    I love this.

    I have one over here that expresses himself this way often as well. It’s the same thing, even positive feelings make him want to punch or hit or kick instead of hugging or gently putting his hand on a back, etc. We talk about it this way too and it DOES help.

    Now comes Elsie, and she’s like this too :)

    I loved the book Wild Things, about raising boys. In it the authors talk about how common it is for boys to express love through being TOUGH. Understanding that helped me repsond to Miles differently.


  2. says

    Oh , yes, what a challenge to raise our boy who is so intense at times. I am not sure what has worked to help our son, who used to hit quite often. I think since he had such a stable early life before he was adopted by us, so the stability has helped. Also, once we found out he has spd we started incorporating more opportunities for heavy physical activity. We already did a lot, but we just upped it more for him. And he likes it loud so having music on in the house during the morning has helped calm him down too. And yes, staying calm as a parent goes a long way to helping him.

    I would love it if you could link up to the Sunday Parenting Party on my blog. =)

  3. says

    Oh, what a sweet story. And God bless you, 7 kids under 11! You are a supermom. My son is an only child, but i see this sometimes between him and his best buddies. They’re roughest with the ones they love the most.
    Kristin Shaw´s last blog post ..Milestones