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Raising Hope and Putting Down the Gloves

November 9th, 2011 by Rachel Stuhler

At some point in their child’s early years, every parent must face the inevitable toddler aggression. Kids like to test boundaries by hitting, spitting, slapping, and pretty much anything else their tiny hands can manage. It’s an endearing time when you stare down at that little face and think, “How can someone so cute be so violent?”

It’s another of those less-than-pleasant teachable moments when we have to admit that our children are quickly becoming their own people, even in the terrible twos. It’s also natural for parents to start to question their own techniques, worrying if they’re addressing the problem in the right way to help baby grow into an upstanding adult.

It was a topic tackled on last week’s “Raising Hope,” when cutie pie Hope develops her very own claws and takes down a boy twice her size for trying to “swipe a tinker toy.” For most of us, this would be a moment of chagrin where we desperately try to figure out how to explain to a two year-old why hitting is wrong. Unfortunately for the Chance family, Hope’s mother was a convicted serial killer, and what would be pretty harmless for the rest of us becomes a harbinger of doom.

For days, every bad mood and scowl on Hope’s face is just further proof to Jimmy that one day very soon, Hope will learn how to wield a machete. The Chances institute a ridiculous policy of no arguing or fighting in front of the baby, even as they’re forced to live in their storage shed while the house is fumigated. It isn’t until every member of the family has a rage breakdown that they finally realize—everyone fights. It’s just a part of life. Bottling up that anger does nothing but teach children to repress, forcing the aggression out in other ways.

Luckily, most of us don’t have to grapple with serial killer genes, but we all have to find ways to teach our children to express anger and upset safely and in a productive way. And as the Chances learn, what seems like a terrible ordeal and moment of self-doubt for the parent is usually over pretty quickly for the child. Which means that tomorrow, there will be an entirely new challenge to face.