Question:  I have several 4-year-old preschoolers who hit, push, kick, and tackle other children.  We are constantly reminding them to keep their hands to themselves.  Their imaginative play always revolves around Power Rangers.  Do you have any ideas, advice, or resources to help deter the children from these aggressive behaviors?  We are in contact with the parents on a regular basis.

Myrna Shure:  One way to redirect this kind of behavior is to gather some Power Ranger figures and let the children create a story together about those figures.  By doing this, you will come to understand what the children are thinking and feeling – that is, whether they are feeling angry and frustrated inside, and lashing out with aggression of their own, or whether they are simply mimicking the actions of their super heroes in ways they think are fun.

Whether genuine anger or merely mimicking behaviors, you can ask questions as: “Why do you think he (point to figure A) likes to hit and kick this guy?” (point to figure B) How do you think (B) feels when (A) does that?”  “Can you think of a new story of something (A) can do or say so (B) won’t feel that way?”  Then, when aggressive behavior actually occurs, you can ask, “What did the Power Ranger do instead of hurting someone?”  Reminding children of a story they created around fictitious characters helps to redirect behavior so they will not want to hurt others, whether it be in fun, or to release genuine anger and frustration.  

If a non-aggressive story is created, you can remind the children of those ideas in real life situations.  Or, you can simply ask, “What do Power Rangers do that will not hurt people that you can do now?”

If it turns out that one or more children in the group feels truly angry or frustrated, or is perhaps, working through fears, you can inform their parents of what you learned in the story they created.  You can then encourage those parents to talk about those feelings with the child, which may open up a form of communication that never existed before.