If your child is showing a lot of anger or aggression, don’t discount this critical missed reason for aggression in children. I’ve watched it play out in real life over and over and am thankful in my own child’s life, that I was able to figure it out.
I could hear my daughter and her best friend playing upstairs. At 2 years old, Hannah and Sydney had been meeting for playdates for nearly a year. But as usual, I was holding my breath.
Every.single.time my daughter would inevitably use physical force during their time together. I’m not just talking about a little nudge when she didn’t get her way.
I’m talking a full-out shove into the wall.
HOW CAN THIS BE MY CHILD?
And I would be so embarrassed. How could this sweet little girl with whom I did not even spank have so much pent-up aggression?
And it wasn’t JUST with her friends. It was directed at me as well. Hannah would get SO ANGRY with me over the smallest thing. If I said it was time to get in the car and she wasn’t ready, she would begin hitting me over and over.
I struggled with what to do. I had learned very early on that physical force was definitely not the way to deal with physical force.
It made no sense for me to tell Hannah to NOT HIT while I was hitting her. So I learned new and better ways to discipline.
But it still didn’t explain the WHY. Why was Hannah so full of anger and aggression? It definitely went beyond the normal emotional ups and downs of being a toddler.
WHAT WAS THE MISSED REASON FOR AGGRESSION IN CHILDREN?
I hate to admit that it took nearly four years of doctor’s appointments, play therapy, occupational therapy sessions, and my own investigative work to discover the TRUE missed reason for aggression.
Hannah had an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition.
She had chronic sinusitis. I had known for quite some time she was having recurrent sinus infections and had learned many ways to deal with the side effects. But what I didn’t realize was that even on antibiotics, she was still sick. Her sinuses were never being cleared.
So what did this mean?… Well, how do YOU feel when you have a sinus infection?
She was exhausted from a lack of sleep.
She had a constant headache.
She could not breathe.
Her throat was sore.
Food never tasted “right.”
She had lasting pressure behind her eyes.
Overall, she just felt crappy.
Well, after four years of this, wouldn’t you be angry? Especially if you couldn’t explain your symptoms or understand why?
I found this whole idea of a “missed reason for aggression in children” to hold true in so many other cases.
Yes, of course, you can see it play out in a child who is sick for even a short time. When kids don’t feel well and are tired, they act out. Period.
It’s the long-lasting, undiagnosed illnesses that are easy to overlook.
My really good friend has a 6-year-old son who is one of the sweetest boys I know. Yet, she was always worried because her child seemed to get angry so easily. To yell, to push, to act out. It was really upsetting to her because she could not figure out how to calm him or stop the anger and aggression.
In talking to her, we both agreed something physical had to be going on. I shared with her my story on Hannah.
She began seeing her pediatrician…and specialists. They ruled out allergies…and reflux…and ADHD. Finally, because he had been waking so much at night, a sleep study was ordered.
Which revealed a very serious condition called Central Sleep Apnea. In layman’s terms, his brain wasn’t sending a signal to his heart and lungs to pump oxygen, which resulted in him being without oxygen for extended periods all through the night.
His rare sleeping disorder was misdiagnosed as ADHD.
Serious… but fixable. Now he is on a CPAP machine and is sleeping better…and surprise?!
When he started sleeping – he started behaving better as well.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
As for Hannah? Once we figured out the root problem, we spent the next several years fixing it. It’s not been easy. We’ve had her tonsils removed, her adenoids removed (three times!), sinus surgery in December, and ANOTHER one next month that will be more extensive.
But her behavior? She is the sweetest, most gentle child I could have asked her.
Don’t misunderstand me – she is NOT perfect. She still gets angry and mad and doesn’t always listen.
And she is STILL chronically sick. But I KNOW it…and she knows it. And we are working on a way to “fix” it.
And you would not believe just how far that knowledge can carry you….you and your child.