I was at a conference recently, for therapists and teachers, and the lecturer really wanted to make a point that aggression is good.
It’s part of nature and therefore we should not get involved in the aggression between children. By avoiding getting involved in their little struggles we’re allowing them to deal with adversity. And adversity makes you stronger or the old adage what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – or it builds character.
Okay, I guess I get his point. But I think his points are accurate while his conclusion flawed. Probably equally as flawed as the one he is reacting against – the overwhelming lack of allowing competition and going so far as to demonize children’s aggression.
My belief is happiness heals and it encourages growth.
We can’t control all aspects of the environment so that adversity doesn’t present itself in our child’s world. But not acting so that we can make them stronger is a flawed approach.
To say that trees are able to grow through the adversity of fire or that animals don’t get their feelings hurt when other animals are mean to them misses the basic issue. Human’s brains are different in some ways than these other living entities and the strengthening power of adversity seems to be more of a hardening and pulling in energy rather than a growth promoting response to life. It’s more survivalistic less empowering
Yes trees grow through fire, but they don’t grow bigger as a result of the adversity – they just grow. And there is evidence that other mammals that are separated, isolated from their group show signs of stress just as humans do. In fact many do not survive without their group when in environments stressed by social aggression and negative environmental factors.
It is more accurate that trees grow bigger with the things that nurture their growth – good soil/nutrition, water, sunlight, a supportive environment/not too crowded/space – the roots grow deeper and the branches larger and more full of leaves and fruit, with these perfect conditions of positivity.
Some plants actually have a set structure that they require a fire to cause new seed growth. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, having to resolve an adverse situation for humans may allow for creative resolutions and new growth.
However, for optimal growth, things that really encourage growth are better at creating inner strength in our children.
Being given the best of happiness, love, support, guidance, opportunity, and safety does actually increase internal strength, self-confidence, curiosity, perseverance, creativity, and self- esteem.
Interestingly, the myths and all the stories of heroes are filled with children who have grown up with adversity – loss of parents, abuse, abandonment, persecution, with occasional support from strangers, teachers or far away fairy godmothers.
This doesn’t mean that adversity makes you stronger. The stories are meant to give strength to those who must work through deficits and adversity, recognizing that it is an eventual experience in life.
The best growth promotion remains happiness and joy, support and nurturing.
That’s why the more you focus on strengths and limitations, paradigm shifting, choosing joy, and responding to your children in the present moment from a wholistic (figure/ground) perspective – the more they grow bigger, stronger, and fuller.
Just notice what you see with yourself – its right there.
See you tomorrow.
February 28, 2010 at 9:35 pm
I believe that Simple Answers are like No Answer at All. Any ‘answer’ that ignores the situation is not very useful. Aggression in the controlled situation of sports is useful. Aggression in war that kills many people… depends on which side you’re on at the time.
I don’t see how someone can have ‘optimal growth’ unless they have learned about overcoming adversity. While it’s good to have ‘positive’ goals, there are a lot of people who have no interest in your growth. If you don’t learn to deal with them, you won’t grow.
I believe that it’s all one life. Your life is one in a sea of lives and circumstances. If you see (or imagine) a place or situation that you want to take yourself to, you have to get through what is between you and your goal. Often you have to ‘get through’, ‘go around’, or ‘go over’ people and circumstances to get to the things you want.
March 1, 2010 at 4:45 pm
Dave I agree it’s all one life. What happens to us and what we get in early childhood greatly affects our ability to deal with adversity. I am not talking about war or professional football, I’m talking about how to develop a strong internal self. I have seen the result of constant aggressive adversity without assistance from others and the outcome is overwhelmingly NOT a strong person but either an overly aggressive person or a victimized passive aggressive person each go through life surviving not able to maintain relationships and unable to develop to their full potential, (optimal growth).
You belief system is a well documented in the culture. I do not support it based on what I have witnessed and observed in response to it’s proliferation. I am writing about a different focus and approach on parenting and living that is flexible and powerful so that an individual knows his internal strength and capacities and therefore is able to respond to adversity when it presents itself. The use of powerful action in the right moment comes from knowing when to act and when to not act. Aggression is an emotional impulsive characteristic that bleeds out into other areas in a person’s life who has not learned how to manage it – as an example football players that also participate in dog fighting.
Aggression and adversity are not the same thing. It is true that a lack of any adversity doesn’t allow for the development of internal strength. My discussion is that we don’t need to invite adversity by not assisting in how our children develop their relationship to power. Unmanaged aggressive behavior is a type of adversity that is not growth promoting. Beth
March 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm
My comments are based on my experiences seeing parents who won’t help their kids with their homework and won’t require them to do it because “it’s too Hard”. These people become the adults I know who use the phrase “It should be easier.” as an excuse to not learn to take care of their own business. Not having to ‘deal’ with things has it’s own Lack of rewards.
March 1, 2010 at 6:43 pm
Interesting. Again I would say that somehow we are miscommunicating. The focus of this discussion is on the aggressive interplay between children in their development of their relationship to power. I am not condoning parents not helping to deal with adversity – I am suggesting the opposite that parents be involved. What you are describing is a learned helplessness on the part of the child and that is a result of earlier experiences of adversity being too much without any support from significant others in how to navigate through adversity. Your example is what the interplay looks like after that – they don’t try and they think everything is too hard. My discussion is to help children understand how to work through these issues by connecting to their internal strength which I do not define as aggression.
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