Aggression, body image in children

- Hi Mary Jo,
I have a smart and energetic 3-year-old son; however, he is having problems with aggression and focusing at school. Can you please give us some advice?

Thank you,
Rah Kimm

Dear Rah Kimm,
Your son’s behavior could reflect a medical problem or something problematic in the family structure. Kids who are active and aggressive need more structure and fewer choices. I have several suggestions that I think will help you.
1. Take your child to his pediatrician and tell the doctor exactly what you’ve observed. Many times hearing loss, delayed language development, or processing disorders can be diagnosed and treated. The pediatrician has access to specialists and can refer you, which is easier than trying to access them on your own. The earlier the treatment, the better for your son. 
2. Ask your pediatrician for help with a behavior specialist. A behavior specialist can offer suggestions for parental challenges.
3. Limit television, computer games, or incoming sources of aggression.
4. Be careful how you and your family members and friends talk to each other. Children are like sponges and repeat the behaviors and conversations they hear.
5. Let your son know there are consequences for his behavior and hold him accountable. 

Hi Mary Jo,
How can I get my daughter to embrace how smart and pretty she is?

Thank you,
Coach Leah

Dear Coach Leah,
Almost every girl and woman I know struggles with body image issues of some sort. Remember that where you focus your attention signals what is important to your child. When parents focus more on their child’s actions, effort, and character, they will build their child’s confidence and self-esteem.  Here are some examples.
1. Model body acceptance as her mom. Modeling healthy choices with your diet, exercise, and coping skills is the number one way to raise an emotionally confident and healthy child.
2. Watch “her shows” with her and talk about the show. Understand her perspective and values and then share yours.
3. Encourage her to enroll in team sports as early as you can. Team sports model the importance of failing and getting back up again.
4. Show more appreciation when she builds skills that are independent of appearance or academic performance. Theater, music, art, and volunteer work are wonderful ways to help her feel more confident in herself.

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