Communicating with the Aggressive Child

Unbridled aggressiveness may lead to very stressful situations, in some cases to violence. Conversely, repressed aggressiveness is conductive to inhibition and lack of initiative. However, this same force, once arisen to consciousness, positively directed, reveals itself as a potent source of personal motivation and creative action. In the workshop here proposed, participants will consider the destructive and constructive dimensions of aggressiveness. They will explore approaches inducing children to use their aggressiveness in constructive ways.

Objectives of Boxing and Related Body Language in the Management of Aggressiveness

  • To create a locus for exploration, self-knowledge and self-expression.
  • To use a metaphor: the fight against one’s shadow (offensive and defensive attitudes against situations which represent a threat).
  • Through efforts and the management of strength derived from aggressive energy, to favour achievement, trust and the capacity to communicate.

The concept of psycho-boxing and its author: Milford Kemp

Vision of boxing as a metaphor of the struggle for life, mainly against one’s own shadows (subjective perceptions, behaviour tendencies, impulses and inhibitions). Boxing is here considered as a life metaphor, in opposition to boxing as a gladiatorial sport bent on physically damaging the opponent.

The Sources of Aggressiveness 

  • A word on child development (early phases of development, emotional security, second and third year of life, the first experiences of power or helplessness).
  • The influence of the human environment (family stress and mental health, family stories and their influence on communication patterns).
  • Stress from internal or external sources.

Types of Behaviour related to Aggressiveness

  • In the human being, a natural force that may be oriented towards life favouring impulses or destruction ; a force that will impeach adequate thinking if the emotion is too strong, hence the need for strong integration of emotions, of adaptation to threats and spontaneous reactions to them : counterattack, flight or ¨freeze ¨.
  • Uncontrolled expression of anger (related to underlying pain, fear, the pleasure of hitting, domination or fear of others).
  • Inhibition of aggressiveness (turning it toward self, loss of motivation, depressive states often not perceived in children and adolescents) : shyness, ¨invisibility¨. Fear of one’s own violence or the pleasure to exert explosive strength, fear of hurting self or others, of being seen as bad, too nice, too understanding, moralist.
  • Memories of bursts of anger or traumatising violence, feelings of helplessness. The child affected by excessive inhibitions or grandiosely all-powerful .
  • Aggressiveness, anger and violence.

Boxing as an Educational Medium

The activity is conducted with the intention of communicating through action, individually or in small groups.

Educational Means Proposed

  • Importance of a resource person who will coach and provide guidelines to the group of youngsters : the activity needs to be carried out within set boundaries.
  • Exercises are proposed as guided symbolic games ( gestures and positive intentions).
  • Suggested equipment : skipping ropes, gloves, boxing mits, shield, punching bag, etc.

Workshop program

  • Warm up exercices
  • The participants are divided into 2 groups, separated by a line defining their territories. They engage in various movements : facing each other, getting close – moving back,  they run towards each other, stopping at the line. Pulling an opponent who resists – pushing an opponent who resists, etc.
  • Shadow boxing
  • Bag and stick
  • Boxing

Closing Feedback

  • Once the expression of aggressiveness has been completed, it is important to talk about its meaning and agree on behaviour guidelines in the immediate future.

Wokkshop leader

Pierre Gauthier

Academic Degrees
1972    Ph. D. in Sociology, Cornell University (USA).
1968    M. A. in Sociology, Cornell University.
1956    Certificate in Psycho-Pedagogy for Maladjusted Youth, University of Montreal.
1950    B. A., University of Montreal.

Professional Experience

10 years of work as a psychoéducateur, 5 as a systems’ analyst, 15 as professor at the School of Psycho-Education, University of Montreal, including a five-year mandate as director of that school. At the beginning of the 1980’s, he completed extensive training in body psychotherapy in Canada, The United States, France and Mexico. He is the author of Les nouvelles familles (1986. Montreal: Editions St-Martin) and has published numerous articles in scientific and professional journals, the most recent of them in Psychothérapie Québec, a professional journal published by the Society of Quebec Professional Psychotherapists of which he was a founding member and chief editor from 1998 to 2007.

Presently, he practices psychotherapy for individuals, couples and families, directs an individualized training program for psychotherapists and does organizational coaching with Turcotte and Associates, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Mr. Gauthier also directs training sessions for professionals in the psychosocial field in both Canada and France. He plays an active role in the International Scientific Committee of Body Psychotherapy and the Society of Quebec Professional Psychotherapists (SQPP).



Erikson, Erik H. (1982). Enfance et société. Chap.VII, Les huit étapes de L’homme. 169-188. Paris : Delachyaux et Niestlé.

Keleman, S. (1985). Emotional Anatomy. Berkeley : Center Press, chaps. 2-3.

Lemay, M. (1993). J’ai mal à ma mère. Sciences et Culture, 5090 de Bellechasse, Montreal, Qc, Canada H1T2A2 ; fax : 514-256-5078).

Redl, F. et Wineman, D., (1951). Children Who Hate and Controls From Wi

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