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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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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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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