When A Child is ‘Out of Control’

When a Child is Out of Control

Are you concerned that your child is “out of control” when they are: acting aggressively, talking over others, grabbing, have difficulty taking turns or simply doing things you have asked them not to? Many parents get frustrated by their child’s lack of self or impulse control, especially when their child knows the rules or the consequences of breaking them.

Often times it is just that children just don’t have the skills to manage strong impulses. Children begin to develop these skills between ages 2 and 5, but their impulses are not well managed because their “rational brain” that allows for planning, foresight and considering others is not fully developed. For most young children this age self-control is nonexistent, limited at best, and is a skill that will take years to master. Children’s ability to regulate for themselves will not become evident until they begin to approach the ripe old age of seven. 

A child’s temperament, or innate way of reacting to the world, can also make him or her more impulsive than others. Children who are easily distressed and become very agitated may need different treatment than children who are a little more “chill” in order to become capable of self-control. Research findings have shown that kids with higher levels of impulse control develop better academic skills over time, have bigger vocabularies and higher test scores in both math and literacy. Unfortunately on the other side of the spectrum, children with below average impulse control are more likely to suffer from anxiety & depression, become obese, smoke and dependent on alcohol or drugs. But self-control is not static, and like muscle strength can be developed over time.

So what can you do to help your child who is currently “out of control”?

  1.  Acknowledge, empathize, or validate.

Simply acknowledge that in many cases their lack of impulse control is developmentally appropriate and empathize or validate their feelings. When your child is upset- perhaps they were having a fun time at the park and don’t want to leave when you need them to – start by letting them know that you understand by simply saying something like, “Its so hard to leave the park” or “Oh man, it sounds like you really want to stay at the park!” It is important to connect and let your child know that you understand and accept their feelings first before you say or do anything else. 

2.  Use Emotion Coaching.

Use an “Emotion Coaching” or problem solving approach with your child when there is a big emotion or behavior. Research has shown that children with emotion coaching parents recover from stressful situations faster, have fewer negative emotions, and develop the skills needed to manage challenges on their own. In order to be an emotion coaching parent you must empathize, help your child to get clear about what they actually wanted or needed, acknowledge their feelings/needs while setting limits on behavior and guide them through a brainstorming and problem solving process. 

3.  Give your child a break.

Give your child a break! All humans have limited amounts of self-control. And we use up the energy we have for self-control throughout the day. If we continue to ask children to repeatedly perform tasks or follow our requests they will become less and less successful. If there is homework and housework that needs to get done be mindful that small breaks for play or relaxing will help your child re-charge to keep going. When breaks are part of the routine children will be more successful in accomplishing what you need them to. 

4. Play games.

Play games with your children that practice self- control. Games such as Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, or Follow the Leader require impulse control. Another option is to play Freeze. With Freeze, children dance to music and when the music stops they should hold their position until the music starts again. There is also research from Stanford University that shows that playing memory games can improve impulse control as well. 

5.  Do as you want them to do.

Model and practice self-control, self-calming and restraint! Your children aren’t going to do what you say; they are going to do what you do. One area that adults tend to have limited self-control is around the use of media or devices. One way to model self- control or restraint is to create and enforce limits on your own use of devices. There are apps that can do this for you or you can simply remove email or Facebook from your mobile to limit the impulse to check them unnecessarily. The goal is ultimately to check your devices intentionally and not impulsively. (This becomes especially important as your child grows older and has access to their own devices.) 

Being mindful of how you respond to anger, frustration and disappointment will also highly influence how your child responds to these strong emotions. Self-calming is an important skill that can easily be modeled by saying things like: “Oh man, I just dropped the dinner salad on the floor! How frustrating! I’m going to take a deep breath and then I will need to clean up this mess and start over.” Modeling self talk, expressing frustration verbally, and self soothing skills will all help your child to do the same when they have their own strong emotions or reactions. 

Increased self control will develop as your child continues to mature. But there are many things that we can do as parents and teachers to help them develop and nurture these skills and traits. We encourage you to first acknowledge what is and is not developmentally appropriate for your child and then pick one or two ideas from the list above to try out and see how things unfold in your home. 

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[irp posts=”5139″ name=”Same Page Parenting (by Melissa Benaroya)”]


About the Author: Melissa Benaroya

Melissa Benaroya, LICSW, is a Seattle-based parent coach, speaker and author in the Seattle area (MelissaBenaroya.com). She created the Childproof Parenting online course and is the co-founder of GROW Parenting and Mommy Matters, and the co-author of The Childproof Parent. Melissa provides parents with the tools and support they need to raise healthy children and find more joy in parenting. Melissa offers parent coaching and classes and frequently speaks at area schools and businesses. Check out Melissa’s blog for more great tips on common parenting issues and Facebook for the latest news in parent education.

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The need to feel connected to, and seen by our people is instinctive. 

THE FIX: Add in micro-connections to let them feel you seeing them, loving them, connecting with them, enjoying them:

‘I love being your mum.’
‘I love being your dad.’
‘I missed you today.’
‘I can’t wait to hang out with you at bedtime 
and read a story together.’

Or smiling at them, playing with them, 
sharing something funny, noticing something about them, ‘remembering when...’ with them.

And our adult loves need the same, as we need the same from them.♥️
Our kids need the same thing we do: to feel safe and loved through all feelings not just the convenient ones.

Gosh it’s hard though. I’ve never lost my (thinking) mind as much at anyone as I have with the people I love most in this world.

We’re human, not bricks, and even though we’re parents we still feel it big sometimes. Sometimes these feelings make it hard for us to be the people we want to be for our loves.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s the duality of being a parent. We love and we fury. We want to connect and we want to pull away. We hold it all together and sometimes we can’t.

None of this is about perfection. It’s about being human, and the best humans feel, argue, fight, reconnect, own our ‘stuff’. We keep working on growing and being more of our everythingness, just in kinder ways.

If we get it wrong, which we will, that’s okay. What’s important is the repair - as soon as we can and not selling it as their fault. Our reaction is our responsibility, not theirs. This might sound like, ‘I’m really sorry I yelled. You didn’t deserve that. I really want to hear what you have to say. Can we try again?’

Of course, none of this means ‘no boundaries’. What it means is adding warmth to the boundary. One without the other will feel unsafe - for them, us, and others.

This means making sure that we’ve claimed responsibility- the ability to respond to what’s happening. It doesn’t mean blame. It means recognising that when a young person is feeling big, they don’t have the resources to lead out of the turmoil, so we have to lead them out - not push them out.

Rather than focusing on what we want them to do, shift the focus to what we can do to bring felt safety and calm back into the space.

THEN when they’re calm talk about what’s happened, the repair, and what to do next time.

Discipline means ‘to teach’, not to punish. They will learn best when they are connected to you. Maybe there is a need for consequences, but these must be about repair and restoration. Punishment is pointless, harmful, and outdated.

Hold the boundary, add warmth. Don’t ask them to do WHEN they can’t do. Wait until they can hear you and work on what’s needed. There’s no hurry.♥️
Recently I chatted with @rebeccasparrow72 , host of ABC Listen’s brilliant podcast, ‘Parental as Anything: Teens’. I loved this chat. Bec asked all the questions that let us crack the topic right open. Our conversation was in response to a listener’s question, that I expect will be familiar to many parents in many homes. Have a listen here:
https://www.abc.net.au/listen/programs/parental-as-anything-with-maggie-dent/how-can-i-help-my-anxious-teen/104035562
School refusal is escalating. Something that’s troubling me is the use of the word ‘school can’t’ when talking about kids.

Stay with me.

First, let’s be clear: school refusal isn’t about won’t. It’s about can’t. Not truly can’t but felt can’t. It’s about anxiety making school feel so unsafe for a child, avoidance feels like the only option.

Here’s the problem. Language is powerful, and when we put ‘can’t’ onto a child, it tells a deficiency story about the child.

But school refusal isn’t about the child.
It’s about the environment not feeling safe enough right now, or separation from a parent not feeling safe enough right now. The ‘can’t’ isn’t about the child. It’s about an environment that can’t support the need for felt safety - yet.

This can happen in even the most loving, supportive schools. All schools are full of anxiety triggers. They need to be because anything new, hard, brave, growthful will always come with potential threats - maybe failure, judgement, shame. Even if these are so unlikely, the brain won’t care. All it will read is ‘danger’.

Of course sometimes school actually isn’t safe. Maybe peer relationships are tricky. Maybe teachers are shouty and still using outdated ways to manage behaviour. Maybe sensory needs aren’t met.

Most of the time though it’s not actual threat but ’felt threat’.

The deficiency isn’t with the child. It’s with the environment. The question isn’t how do we get rid of their anxiety. It’s how do we make the environment feel safe enough so they can feel supported enough to handle the discomfort of their anxiety.

We can throw all the resources we want at the child, but:

- if the parent doesn’t believe the child is safe enough, cared for enough, capable enough; or

- if school can’t provide enough felt safety for the child (sensory accommodations, safe peer relationships, at least one predictable adult the child feels safe with and cared for by),

that child will not feel safe enough.

To help kids feel safe and happy at school, we have to recognise that it’s the environment that needs changing, not the child. This doesn’t mean the environment is wrong. It’s about making it feel more right for this child.♥️
Such a beautiful 60 second wrap of my night with parents and carers in Hastings, New Zealand talking about building courage and resilience in young people. Because that’s how courage happens - it builds, little bit by little bit, and never feeling like ‘brave’ but as anxiety. Thank you @healhealthandwellbeing for bringing us together happen.♥️

…

Original post by @healhealthandwellbeing:
🌟 Thank You for Your Support! 🌟

A huge thank you to everyone who joined us for the "Building Courage and Resilience" talk with the amazing  Karen Young - Hey Sigmund. Your support for Heal, our new charity focused on community health and wellbeing, means the world to us!

It was incredible to see so many of you come together while at the same time being able to support this cause and help us build a stronger, more resilient community.

A special shoutout to Anna Catley from Anna Cudby Videography for creating some fantastic footage Your work has captured the essence of this event perfectly ! To the team Toitoi - Hawke's Bay Arts & Events Centre thank you for always making things so easy ❤️ 

Follow @healhealthandwellbeing for updates and news of events. Much more to come!
 

#Heal #CommunityHealth #CourageAndResilience #KarenYoung #ThankYou

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