What can we do to prevent and manage violent behaviour in children and adolescents? This final article in the series looks at some foundational principles and healing pathways.

shades of violence in children and adolescents (Part 4)

What can we do to prevent and manage violent behaviour in children and adolescents? This final article in the series looks at some foundational principles and healing pathways.

An understanding of child development and in particular the individual child’s nature will go a long way towards pre-empting aggressive behaviour in children. The choleric child who is rough and aggressive with the newborn baby needs firm but loving containment, and praise and encouragement of his guiding and protective qualities; the melancholic child who retreats defeated by his new sibling rival requires loving kindness and warm interest, challenging him to be helpful and nurturing to the helpless newborn infant. When one understands that the third year (‘terrible two’s’), pre-puberty and early adolescence are nodal points of heightened inner tension, one will feel more secure and confident in weathering these storms.1 If one can create an authentic moral environment outwardly and inwardly in the home and school, one will be doing a great deal to offset potential aggressive behaviour in children and adolescents.

Be aware of early signs of aggressive behaviour and take pre-emptive measures.  Repetitive behaviour patterns such as lying, stealing, violent outbursts, animal cruelty and bullying, need to be confronted with care and understanding. When one realises that all these misbehaviours are reactive responses to hurt feelings and blocked expression, there will never be a place for punitive measures. One should never meet a reactive action with a reactive reaction. This will simply aggravate the soul experience for the child. The child needs to feel that you understand why he acted in this way. Just consequences appropriate to the misconduct then need to follow which will usually be fully accepted once the child feels she has been heard.

Assess your own relationship to violence: Through fine sensing and imitation, children will absorb violence and abuse into their soul/bodily nature. Is the child’s aggressive behaviour telling us about the violence in our own souls? As parents and child caregivers we need to check ourselves through honest self reflection and experience how these two elements live in us. If we discover that we carry a violator in us, either externally (explosive violence) or internally (implosive violence), we should find ways to deal with it, for our future wellbeing as well as for the future of our children. For the ongoing violent nature of parents is a major factor in promoting violence in children.

Specific management of disruptive behaviour disorders, self injury and addiction to violence
 will usually require professional assistance. The fundamental principles of managing these problems effectively rest on two pillars.

1.    Understanding that behind the aggressive and violent behaviour there hides a hurt defensive child whose inner soul needs have not been addressed and who will need outer support and inner skills to empower himself.
2.    Changing the environment where possible from a negative, toxic and destructive one into a positive, healthy and  supportive one.
•    Parents need to be able to detect warning signs of the above disorders: hostile, aggressive behaviour, changes in physical or emotional wellbeing, unusual withdrawal, signs of injury, fall-off in performance, severe depression, suicidal talk, etc.
•    Assess when it takes place and how frequently, and no matter how severe it is, try to understand the needs and sensitivities of the child and that the behaviour response is a conscious or unconscious cry for help.
•    Every effort should be made to communicate effectively with the child in accordance with child-centred guiding principles.2
•    Books that deal specifically with these subjects should be used for orientation and guidance.3-5
•    The best outcomes will usually be achieved as described in other articles on addictive behaviour through an holistic multi-disciplinary approach whereby the young client enters voluntarily into a contractual therapeutic programme held together by the health practitioner, parents or caregivers, therapists, teachers, social worker and others personnel.
•    Counselling is an essential part of the therapeutic programme. Psychophonetic counselling is especially effective in dealing with the above disorders, helping the child to achieve self mastery over a cunning enemy. Use of verbal as well as non-verbal expressive modalities of body sensing, gesture/movement, visualisation and sound work, allows the child to directly discover her vulnerability, what she is missing as well as new resources to provide for herself the protection and nurturing she is needing.

All the signs around us point to a grave escalation of child-perpetrated violence in the future. If as parents and child caregivers we are to find ways of checking this rampant destructive force in our midst, we will need to develop a deep and practical understanding of violence. And an essential part of this understanding will require some awareness of the anti-human forces that are a part of all violence.


1. Goldberg R. The Challenge of Stress in Childhood: Awaken to Child Health No 13. Dreamcatcher Publications, 2004.
2. Goldberg R. Communicating with Stressed Children: Awaken to Child Health No 14. Dreamcatcher Publications, 2005.
3 Goldberg R. Enhancing Your Child’s Potential: Awaken to Child Health No 1. Dreamcatcher Publications, 2002.
4. Kaplan & Sadock, eds. Synopsis of Psychiatry. 8th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 1998.
5. Field EM. Bullying Blocking. Sidney: Finch Publishing, 2007.