Confusing aggression, violence, and human emotion

Aggression has been conflated with violence and that has resulted in some parents making sure their children have no toys that have any taint of violence or aggression such as guns or toy soldiers. Dr. Gold suggests parents Prevent bullying by accepting healthy aggression.

the latest research at the intersection of neuroscience, behavioral genetics and developmental psychology is demonstrating that a parents’ ability to reflect and contain a child’s feelings will help that child learn to manage these feelings, and may change the way his brain handles strong emotions. He may be less likely to behave aggressively in the future. If, on the other hand, a child gets the idea that his feelings are “bad” and “wrong”, these feelings don’t go away. They just become disconnected from the child’s sense of who he is

There are two concepts noted in the essay. The first is that children are not adults. They develop mentally, emotionally, and physically and a 2 year old cannot be held accountable in the same way as an adult. The second is that emotions are not behavior. Parenting means helping children learn the difference and finding appropriate ways to express their emotions. Children need to learn that it is behavior that is right or wrong and not their feelings.

The problem can be seen in the lack of civility in online social media. There, the aggression is often turned loose and the aggressor is not inhibited by civility goals. This may be that the aggressive individuals are having difficulty translating their civil values from a direct interpersonal venue to a virtual one. If that is the case, then there is learning to be had. Aggression is a valuable and useful emotion but its expression as blind violence turned on others is not. Being able to make the distinction between emotions and behavior is a place to start.

Comments are closed.