Child rage - Is it their fault always?

- By Akshita Shreya

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.” – Oscar Wilde

On 11th December 2007, in a shocking incident a 14-year-old boy studying in class VIII was shot dead by two of his classmates inside a school in Gurgaon. In another shocking incident on 21st January 2018, a class XII boy shot his principal dead for pulling him up for poor academic performance. Such cases have been heard of in other countries too, like on 14th December 2012, America was shaken to its core when a mass shooting occurred in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in the USA. 28 people died that fatal morning, amongst which 20 were children between the ages of 6 to 7. The shooter, Adam Lanza, was 20 years old and had a history of mental illnesses like Asperger’s Syndrome, depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He came from a broken family, where his parents were divorced and his father could barely stay in touch with him. Changes in the schooling structure, etc. became too much for him to bear, which increased the severity of his mental health issues; and the rest is history. According to a report issued by the Office of the Child Advocate (2014), "his severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems... combined with an atypical preoccupation with violence... (and) access to deadly weapons... proved a recipe for mass murder". Thus, the circumstances in which we rear our children mould our children’s lives and we need to be very sensitive about it. Have you ever wondered what could be done to prevent such unfortunate instances from happening? 

Step 1 : Look within

We cannot model our parents when we bring up our children; there is a huge difference in the environment in which we grew and in which they are growing. As a parent we should be in a constant habit of introspection.

Question 1: Are we taking out time exclusively for our children?

Question 2: Do we discuss their daily routines with them?

Question 3: Do we prepare them emotionally and mentally to be able to face the harsh realities of the world or do we become their hideouts? 

As parents, we always want our children to be happy and successful. However, we might overlook some of the troubles that our children may be having. We underestimate the gravity of their problems as we judge them with respect to our perception. When a child feels that they are not being understood, we witness maladjusted behavior and then begin the vicious circle of complaints, dissatisfaction, anger, grudge, and whatnot.

A child is an individual under the age of 13 years, post which, she/he become adolescent, and the nature of her/his problem changes. Most children are unable to understand the nature of their problem, so how can we expect them to know how to talk about it? If your child is hesitant to share their concerns with you, it’s not because they don’t love you, but rather, they are scared of disappointing you or fear being judged.  Even as adults, it can be scary and daunting to ask for help, especially about our mental & emotional health, due to the stigma and taboo that surrounds these issues. So, imagine how difficult it must be for children to talk about their problems. 

Step 2 : Be Alert

It is important to note that poor emotional health can affect a child’s mental health adversely. Hence, the best we can do as parents is to keep an eye out for the warning signs that indicate that your child may be experiencing psychological problems and may require counseling. For example, a child who has begun to behave “out of character” and/or who has suddenly started exhibiting behavioral issues or aggression – in ways that are not considered “normal behavior” for children of that age, may need to speak to a counselor. 

Common signs of mental health issues or psychological distress include:

Common experiences that may induce mental health issues and psychological distress include

What Can Be Done? 

If your child has undergone any of the experiences mentioned above and has showcased some behavioral difficulties, it may be wise to consult a child therapist or a child counsellor. As a parent, you want nothing but your child's welfare and happiness, but often problems occur that you simply cannot "fix" on your own – particularly when you are as mentally and emotionally invested in the situation as you are as a parent. That is when leaning on someone with expertise in the area is best.

Step 3 : Seek Help

Child counsellors are specialists in mental health, providing invaluable insight into the social, emotional, and mental health of your child. A child counsellor will provide you and your child with the support needed, in a safe and positive way, to cope with issues as well as any mental health condition. Moreover, this specialist can help both you and your child navigate with less stress and turmoil in uncomfortable, scary, anxiety-provoking, and challenging times.

Such professionals have the skills and experience to recognize, identify, classify, evaluate, diagnose, and treat a broad variety of mental health problems, issues of transition (divorce, new school, bullying, grief, etc.) and psychological distress; Child counsellors are aimed at helping children better identify the problems they are facing and/or the trauma that has occurred – in a way that they can process and understand. Ultimately, child counselling aims to help children work through their emotions, so they can live normal healthy lives without the lasting effects of fear, confusion, anxiety, or trauma.

Step 4 : Listen and Communicate 

Loving your child is not about fulfilling all demands; it is about being committed to ensure she or he develops into a confident personality who values self and is an asset to the society. Researches show that the emotional brain develops before the thinking brain and hence children, adolescents and young adults need constructive contribution from adults while growing. Never underestimate or ignore their concerns. Be a good listener. Educate them about how they grow cognitively, affectively and socially. Tell them you have been through the same. This will always keep the door of communication open. Steps 1 to 4 need to be repeated infinitely to ensure the well being of our most prized possession -  our child.

Think and Reflect: What are the steps that you follow to look after your child’s mental well being? 

About the Author

Akshita Shreya is a psychology graduate from the University of Delhi. She believes in constantly learning beyond books and classroom walls. Her life mantra is to live life without having any regrets and to always be open to experiences.