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Helping the Aggressive Child

Chuck, an active ten-year-old boy, was fidgeting as he was sitting in the large gold reclining chair. His busy hands and feet were moving constantly, and his eyes were reflecting his fears. Chuck did not want to be in my office but his mother, Pat, thought it was important for him to resolve his problems, and insisted that he come in for one counseling session.

Pat sat upright on the couch as she told me about Chuck's angry outbursts, his desire to kill animals, his willingness to follow his destructive friend blindly-even when he knew the behavior was wrong, his hurtful aggression to his younger brother, and the complaint he received from his teacher about his bad attitude in class. I immediately began to build trust and rapport with Chuck by asking him questions about his favorite hobbies and subjects in school, and how he felt about his problem. When Chuck was convinced that I was really listening without judging him, he agreed to allow his mother to leave the room.

Then I told Chuck that he had all the answers to his problems inside of himself. Therefore, I was going to ask him to close his eyes so that he could go inward to find them. I said, "Chuck, I am going to guide you, and I want you to know that you are in control. Please tell me how you are feeling, and if you don't want to do something." Confident that he was safe with me, Chuck closed his big brown eyes and began to relax. I guided him through a process I developed called HART: Holistic and Rapid Transformation.

I first suggested that he go to his safe place which Chuck described as the woods behind his home. As Chuck was imagining that he was in the woods, he spontaneously took a deep breath and relaxed some more. His hands and feet finally ceased their continuous movement.

Then I asked Chuck to rate how much he liked himself by seeing a number from one to ten, with ten indicating high self-esteem. Chuck saw the number five. I continued by saying, "Chuck, imagine that you are in a theater, and that you are visualizing the white movie screen. Now see on the screen an image of a person you are angry with." He replied, "I see my dad.

" I continued, "Chuck, allow yourself to tell your dad what you are angry about. There are no consequences since he is not here and I won't tell anyone what you say." With my continued encouragement, Chuck told his dad how angry he was at him for yelling and slapping him, and for ignoring him. When I asked Chuck what decisions he was making about himself from his dad's behavior, he told me that he believed he must be bad and unimportant.

Knowing that those negative thoughts about himself were the key to his acting out behavior, I asked Chuck to say, "Dad, what you say or do is a reflection of you and not of me. No matter what you tell me or how you act towards me, I am okay. I'm a good person even when I make mistakes. I'm important whether you spend time with me or not.

I imagine that you are doing to me what your father did to you. I'm sorry that you didn't get the kindness, patience, and attention you needed from your father. You must be in a lot of pain to treat me like that. I understand that you love me and don't mean to hurt me.

I forgive you." After Chuck repeated those healing words to his father, he sighed with relief and his face looked more relaxed. He told me that he was feeling much better.

With further exploration, Chuck realized that even though he hated his dad's aggressive behavior, he was becoming just like him. Chuck also had a bad temper, and was yelling at and hitting his younger brother. Chuck's desire to hurt animals was his way of releasing the angry feelings that he had towards his dad. Chuck was misbehaving in school in order to get the attention he wasn't receiving from his father. He was also trying to be noticed more by his mother who he felt was favoring his older sister. With further introspection, Chuck realized that because he did not like himself very much, he was willing to take abuse from his friend and do what he said just to be accepted.

Finally, Chuck admitted that he was hurting because his parents were not getting along. On some level, he felt responsible for their unhappiness (something children often mistakenly do). After I helped Chuck realize that he was not responsible for his parents' pain and upsets, he felt even better about himself. I concluded the session by asking Chuck to evaluate his progress by once again seeing a number that represented how much he liked himself. This time, Chuck saw the number eight. He was very pleased with himself, and I acknowledged him for his courage and wonderful work.

It was then time to call his mother back into the office. With Chuck's permission, I told Pat all that had transpired in the session. I emphasized to Pat how important it was to resolve her issues with her husband, and to make sure that the children are told that they are not responsible.

I also expressed to Pat that often one child acts out the pain of the family, and Chuck seemed to be the one who was unconsciously doing just that. Pat was very grateful and willing to pursue counseling with her husband. She realized that I was speaking the truth when I told her that she and her husband were the foundation for the family. With a loving relationship, constructive communication, and good parenting skills, the children were likely to have high self-esteem and be healthy and successful. The following week, Pat called to inform me that Chuck's teacher was pleased with the improvement in his attitude, and that he was able to break off his friendship with his destructive, demeaning pal.

Chuck was acting much kinder to his brother, and no longer talked about killing animals. Obviously, the once-aggressive Chuck was becoming the loving being he truly is. How wonderful it would be if everyone overcame their destructive behavior, and expressed their love which is their natural state. What a wonderful, peaceful world this would be.

Copyright 2006 by Helene Rothschild, MS, MA, MFT, a Marriage, Family Therapist, intuitive counselor, speaker, and author. Her newest book is, "ALL YOU NEED IS HART!". She offers phone sessions, teleclasses, books, e-books, MP3 audios, tapes, posters, independent studies, and a free newsletter. http://www.lovetopeace.com , 1-888-639-6390.

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