On Parenting and Unwanted Aggression: Maybe It Is About You After All

You know, some topics are harder to figure out how to present than others. And that is sorta how we feel about Parenting and Unwanted Aggression.

This post started out about Bullying, but quickly got downgraded to Unwanted Aggressive Behavior, cycled through Labeling, worked it’s way over the teaching of Empathy, touched on Active Listening and, I think, finally ended up being primarily about Modeling Desired Behaviors. Or at least I think it did. Read along with me and we will figure it out!

Sometimes Quickly, Sometimes Slowly, a Blog Post Will Materialize If You Work for It!

And it began: So you may be wondering just why it is that so few Bunnies have problems with Aggression. This is, yet again, another really good question. And, try as we may, eventually, from time to time, a Bunny will come along that just has a plain hard time cooperating and/or being kind to others. For, in all honesty, not even Bunnies are perfect.

Bunny Scout IllustrationIn fact, just recently I had an interaction with a Bunny much larger than I, in a grown up Bunny sort of way, who did everything in her power to demean and degrade my work. And boy was she Mean! As I was completely unprepared for her hostility, my energy was rapidly drained and, by the end of the conversation, I felt utterly deflated.

And yet there I was! I still loved, valued and believed in my work! So how did this Bunny I don’t even know destroy my day, rip my soul out, turn my head completely up side down… All in a 15 minutes!

Well, the first answer, obviously, would be that I, as a point of fact, still have some growing work to do myself!

At the same time, the fact that such a Bunny has made it into adulthood both harboring and expressing such rancor is a rarity indeed! See, for the most part, this type of emotional and behavioral disfunction is typically remedied at a fairly young age. And, I like to think that this is really why I got ambushed!

Regardless, as I left the conversation, (and after I gave the small, wounded Bunny inside of me a big-huge hug, of course) I was suddenly aware that this was, in fact, merely a prompt to begin anew and share with you more about our (generally) lovely Bunny Culture.

Carrots Illustration

And so, as we all now know, Bunnies consider Destructive Aggression to be an extremely undesirable trait. However, before we go too much further, we should take a moment to say that one must be very specific when discussing Aggression as the extremes of the behavior can be very, very serious.

Therefore, let it be said that, in this article, we will be speaking of Aggression in broad terms without referring to it as Bullying for two reasons. First, because term Bully tends to become a Label and we don’t find Labeling at all helpful in the raising of Multifaceted Bunnies. And secondly, because Bullying refers to a very specific type of behavior and we don’t want to blur any lines around how to respond to that particular, very troubling issue.

Now, while we are on the topic of Labeling, here at the outset, we might as well take another moment and point out the significance of this tendency and why it should be avoided. You see, Bunnies find words like Bully and Victim to be counter productive. In fact, Bunnies try to refrain from using any derogatory terms when describing other Bunnies. You see, Labeling Bunnies, young or old, with these, or any other negative term can result in unintended and unhelpful consequences!

children writing on wallsThe first danger is that the Bunny may internalize the label and come to think of themselves as Bad or Horrible Bunnies. You see, not only does a label imply that the Bunny’s behavior is fixed and can not change, but it also implies that that there is an intrinsic quality within the Bunny that cannot change. And although, as a healthy grown up, one may know that this is not true, young Bunnies are not capable of the abstract thinking required to understand such subtleties.

Moreover, Labeling precludes the fact that the same Bunny can play multiple roles within multiple relationships and/or situations. As we big Bunnies know, situations, settings and even relationships themselves are fluid and that there are many dynamic factors involved in all aspects of Bunny behavior.

Thus, it is critical that any Labeling be attached specifically to the behavior rather than to the individual Bunny itself.

Hopefully, this is something that you already know and practice throughout your life. But, as always, it is best not to make assumptions. (You know what they say about assumptions… wink… wonk…) And so, to be safe, we prefer to review.

So to be clear, it is not the Bunny itself that is “Bad” but rather the behavior, the choice, or the action. There are no Bad Bunnies as there are not Bad Humans! Only Bunnies who have made poor decisions or exhibited inappropriate behaviors.

Now then, like children, many little Bunnies will try on aggressive behaviors as a response to frustration, fear or fatigue, or even just to see how it goes. Here, they could simply be exhausted, or they could be modeling a behavior recently seen.

Be aware, of course, that this could be behavior they have witnessed in the home, but it could also be behavior that they have witnessed somewhere else such as at school, the playground, the media, a friends house…

This in itself is not a problem. It is a normal natural part of development and a way of checking out to how they want to Be in the world. It becomes problematic, however, when the Aggression is not handled appropriately, and/or is routinely modeled, at which point, it may become a more durable and enduring behavior pattern. And this is what we don’t want.

Bunny ScoutsThe most important thing that we would like to stress to you is that, at least among Bunnies, Aggressors are not just born Bad Bunnies! Rather, they are, in fact, Formed! Yes, you heard that right! They are a product of their environment.

Now there may be variety in terms of general disposition. But in terms of inherently Good or Bad Bunnies, No. At least in Bunnies, there are no Bunnies that are born just plain Bad! However, behavioral patterns begin to develop at a very early age and this is why it is imperative that we begin teaching values and modeling desired behaviors from the start!

How do you know this? You might ask. Well, through research we would reply. You see we Bunny researchers have found that Aggression is a more prominent and persistent problem in Bunnies that witness Aggression regularly in the home.

And this should stand to reason as the behaviors in the home are the behaviors little Bunnies see day in and day out. They are the behaviors that a little Bunny begins to understand as both safe and normal. And, therefore, this is why, as soon as we find a little Bunny behaving badly, we look immediately to the bigger Bunnies in their lives.

Incidentally, this is also why a little Bunny that is, in fact, being severely abused may be afraid to leave the abuser. It is what they know, what they are familiar with, and therefore, even a violent situation can appear safer than an unknown.

One cannot scold, hit, yell, shame or humiliate anyBunny and at the same time be modeling positive behavior traits. If one is yelling and fuming, most likely (or rather obviously) one is modeling yelling and fuming. Ironically, one might even be yelling and fuming as a direct result of one’s little Bunny’s aggressive yelling and fuming incident on the playground.

parenting aggressive behaviorSo, when we do look at the caregivers of Bunnies with aggressive or undesirable behavioral tendencies, we typically find aggressive or undesirable behaviors including threat making, verbal and/or physical abuse, intimidation, shaming, exclusion/shunning, the withholding of kindness/love and/or even the withholding of such basic needs as food and water, as well as abuses of power including perceived positions of power.

I stress this because if any relationship between adults, married or otherwise, is not a true partnership with a healthy working relationship, little Bunnies will swiftly and astutely be able to identify the power structure and will begin understand these behaviors and relationships as normal. The take away being that this is, in fact, how Bunnies do and should relate to one another.

To think otherwise is silly, for, how else is a young Bunny to understand the world. It is the same as how they learn to speak. There is no innate knowing of how to navigate relationships, some magical, proverbial “boot straps” to “pull up”. They will naturally begin to model the behaviors around them and intuitively begin to apply them in their own relationships.

Little Bunnies end up treating others as they are treated at home. They apply their experience. They behave the way they are taught. And unless another Bunny comes along and shows them another way, one cannot rationally expect to see change.

Bunny Scout with Easter Eggs

Now, what to do with this Horrible Aggressive Behavior! [In the Immediate]

The First thing we do in a situation with a young Bunny acting out aggressively is to Remain Calm and Behave Respectfully. We are the role model. If we begin yelling, spanking or humiliating, the primary purpose is defeated and the aggressive behavior is reinforced regardless of what we proceed to say with our words.

With this in mind, we Stop the unwanted behavior on the spot. Pull the young Bunny aside and, focusing entirely on the Bunny, Ask what behavior it is that they were exhibiting. Leave out the scolding as well as the prompting. We want this to come from the inside out not the outside in.

Once the Bunny has identified the inappropriate behavior correctly, we then Prompt them to explain how this behavior might affect others. We refer to this as getting into the other Bunny’s fur. The young Bunny must become an observer of the behavior.

Bunny with flowers Next the Bunny should be led to make Amends. We prefer amend to apologize. To make amends means to make it right, as opposed to apologizing which is merely to express regret. Here the Bunny may be charged with an act of kindness and/or have to clean up or replace any damaged property.

At this point it is important to Praise the making of amends as a mature act and an expression of its ability to be able to do the next right thing. Building these skill early on will not only help them on the playground, it will help them throughout their lives, be it in navigating relationships or conducting business at the Bunny table.

Don’t Forget About the Other Bunny!

Now, as to the Bunny on the receiving end of aggressive behavior! One must not forget the Bunny on the receiving end. Here, we also pull that Bunny aside and allow them to express their side of the experience again focusing exclusively on the Bunny to indicate that we are interested, supportive, caring and have a desire to help.

We Assure the Bunny that the other Bunny’s aggression is not its fault. Depending on the severity of the incident, we might also ask this Bunny to get into the other Bunny’s fur as well and speculate just why the other Bunny might have gotten aggressive in the first place. Perhaps, it was hungry, or tired, or perhaps it didn’t want to share its toys.

[Getting in the other Bunny’s fur is an important practice that promotes Empathy, a value critical to maintaining wellbeing. We will have a new Post up about this soon!]

If the aggression was extreme, we might ask what the Bunny could do in a future situation to either keep itself safe. Help them think through the situation and, if necessary, offer a few suggestions. Whatever we do, we Do Not Blame the Bunny for being on the receiving end of aggression and Never Ever suggest that it Fight Back.

You may notice that nowhere did we recommend punitive consequences. No harsh reprimand is necessary. No spanking, no restrictions, no verbal or physical assault.

We continue to model good, pro-social behavior ourselves and praise desired behaviors when exhibited. We keep lines of communication open, and talk about what it means to be a good friend.
Carrots Illustration
How Can We Prevent Unwanted Aggression in the Long Term?

Well, hopefully you can surmise the first suggestion from the above discussion. But, just to be sure, the most important thing you can do is model the behaviors you would like to see from the day the adorable little Bunny is born.

This, in fact, is a corollary to that good old Golden Rule: “treat others the way you want to be treated” (presumably with kindness and respect). What Humans sometimes miss about this Golden Rule is that its value is found not in the saying of the words but in the carrying out of the principle. Young Bunnies learn far more from how we act than they do from what we say.

Bunny Scouts Seated IllustrationAnd this is the thing about little Bunnies, even if they don’t seem to be paying attention, they are! They take in everything. They watch how you manage stress and conflict, how you treat friends, neighbors, strangers, family members, if you gossip and say unkind things. They observe how you express gratitude and affection, when you use humor…

And it’s not just what they see. It is also what they hear. In fact, little Bunnies have extremely long ears with a radar installed that detects the frequency of the parent Bunny’s voice. So be aware of what you say and how you say it. Even if they are on the other side of the burrow, never assume they aren’t listening!

Unfortunately, these are things most Humans don’t really think about when they sign up to be parents. Actually, some don’t sign up at all, and are merely victims of their own impulsive and reckless behavior. But many do sign up and with good intentions. They just might not be ready or prepared to truly examine their own behavior and how it affects everyone around them, most importantly, their children.

But here is the thing, and pay attention because this is important. You don’t have to do it perfectly. NoBunny does anything perfectly. As long as each generation does a little bit better that the previous, that is progress, forward movement, evolution.

Alright, there was a whole lot more to this post but it is getting long. And sometimes longer is not necessarily better, but rather, boring and tiresome! So maybe we will save the rest for another day!

Bunny Scouts

Well, wait. This last little bit makes sense to include here, so bare with me for another minute.

I want to add this little part because it happens with me all the time! One has to learn to be conscious of when what is going on with oneself has absolutely nothing to do with one’s precious little Bunny. If something goes wrong at work and you are come home angry, be wary of lashing out. One must pause and separate out just where the energy is coming from.

Hunger can be a bugger in this way as well. Many of us get irritable when we get too hungry. I am sure there is a bit of science involved with the explanation for this. And it probably goes back to survival of the fittest and the need to get the organism’s attention if it is going to be the organism that survives.

Regardless, I’m the one who ends up saying “I am so sorry sweet carrot! I am crabby because I am hungry and that outburst had nothing to do with you. Let me get something to eat and then we can talk.”

This is something critical for your little Bunny to be able to distinguish and understand. And for you to communicate for multiple reasons. The first of which is that it will help the little one begin to examine and understand what is going on with its own body! And, not only that, but here you are modeling how to acknowledge your own behavior and correct it! Lesson Learned!

If you enjoyed this post please share the link with family and friends! And don’t forget #eatmorecarrots

Title The Bunny in the Bush

Bunny Scout 278432 has Degrees in Bunny Behavioral Development and is a certified Young Bunny Therapist. She is a scout for Piper in Nebraska and Blogs for TheFunnyBunny.com
The Bunny in the Bush is an Easter Story for Children that combines the origins of the Easter Bunny with a fun new Family Tradition that teaches values and encourages independent and creative thinking as you prepare to celebrate the Easter season!

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