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Relational aggression

Researchers say that, compared to physical aggression, relational aggression is less well understood, making it hard to combat. However, BYU professors Craig Hart, Clyde Robinson and Dave Nelson offer the following suggestions to help reduce relational aggression in Church settings:

  • Do not model relationally manipulative behaviors in the parent-child relationship. For example, parents of relationally aggressive children are more likely to withdraw love and attention when upset with their children, thereby exhibiting conditional love.
  • Teach principles of kindness to children at an early age. Children should be aware of what is appropriate and what is not.
  • Teach and model empathy understanding in young children. For example, to children who are using hurtful words, parents can say, "How would you feel if someone said something mean to you?"
  • Help them to be a good bystander by being assertive themselves in trying to solve the problem or consulting adult leaders when they see a peer being relationally victimized. For example, when a peer says something mean about someone, immediately point out something positive about that person.
  • Talk with your child about options for finding ways to include those who have been victimized in Church activities.
  • Set the example by not "saying demeaning things" about others.
  • Be able to forgive and forget. A person who has a hard time forgiving another person is much more likely to spread rumors about them.
  • Youth leaders and parents need to be aware. Relational aggression tends to be mitigated if adults are present and are watching and aware.

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