Monday, August 4, 2008

Advice on Channeling Aggression - Guest Post by "Duvid"

When it comes to child rearing, it's no secret that men have easier time disciplining kids than women do. So I asked myself, why is it for example, that when a kid starts acting in a way that urgently needs correction, it often takes me one stern word, along with a joke, to set them straight, whereas my wife has to get to the point of screaming and being upset at the kid. And then of course, the kid gets upset and throws a tantrum, so it's a vicious cycle... So I thought about it, and came to this answer: when i give my kids a stern look, they know I mean business... Not that I'm ever going to do something hurtful to them Chas v'Shalom (even if they continue misbehaving), but just as a man, i know how to be very aggressive, and how to control and channel that aggression in a very specific way, and kids feel that... Along with a joke that puts their minds at ease, it works wonders to keep them at bay.

My wife however, doesn't know how to be aggressive (as true for most women)! Kids feel that, and take advantage of it, forsing her to get upset in order to discipline the kid... And disciplining kids while you're upset is not good for anyone...

So i said, hmm!... Let me teach my wife how to be aggressive!!! Especially living in Israel where one doesn't know when one might be faced with an attack, it didn't take long to convince her to let me teach her some martial arts...

I chose one of the simplest techniques, just a straight punch, and we started practicing, with me holding a pillow at my torso and her punching it. The main thing I wanted to bring out is the aggression (BTW, most martial arts classes do not emphasize it enough). I told her like this: one moment i want you to be totally calm, and the next moment, you throw yourself, punching through the pillow. Imagine it's a terrorist... Scream!!! Yeah, go go go... (yeah, it was fun!). Soon she made some progress, from slow, stiff and unsure punches to actually throwing her fists through that pillow, in a sure and strong way... We also worked at being subtle, as well as not setting for the punches. Then we also added a straight thrust - shove (we only work on the simplest techniques). I stood about 5 feet from the wall and had my wife try to shove me and pin me to the wall. At first she couldn't do it, but after some practice she shoves me right to the wall in one go, making a sound like an accelerating motorcycle! (I'm very particular about sounds, there're some sounds that bring out aggression more than others, sound of accelerating motorcycle is one of them. Beginners often make sounds as if they're giving birth - that's not a sound for aggression but rather for pain relieve.) Pretty impressive, as I'm much bigger than her.

When I mentioned this to a friend who's a family counselor he was like, "hmm, I'm not sure it's a good idea..." But we both like it! We've only done it for a few weeks and I notice some improvement in how my wife deals with the kids...

The point here, as concerns dealing with kids, is not to scare them into behaving, but rather to work on ones own ability to control ones aggression. And yes, controlling aggression means being able to become very aggressive in a moment, at will, and channel that aggression very specifically, as well as being able to stop and become calm in a moment. As we say, "moach shalit al halev...". As opposed to not controlling ones aggression, which means lack of control both as one becomes aggressive (one explodes because he/she "just can't take it any more", and this "explosion" can know no bounds) and lack of ability to calm down fast and at will. When one has control over ones aggression, one finds that one really doesn't have to scream at his kids so much! Kids love being around an adult who has an inner sense of self control, and behave accordingly. And when one does have to discipline, one is able to do only what's necessary, with out being too harsh, or too strict, and without himself/herself getting upset.

So what we did is just try to develop some "aggression control exercises". Along with giving one self confidence of knowing how to defend oneself, I think of it as a very positive development. Hope people find these ideas helpful.


(Picture courtesy of

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