Got An Out of Control Child? These 7 Tips Will Help Your Child

August 22nd, 2011

Are you worried about your child’s behaviors in public, are you tired of hearing negative comments about your child’s behaviors from family, friends, and teachers, does your stomach sink and you feel totally embarrassed when your child or teen starts to act out in public?

It seems rather crazy that restaurants, airlines, and public spaces would restrict children; isn’t that how children practice learning social expectations and rules? As an art therapist in private practice I see many families whose children have gotten out of control with their meltdowns and tantrums. These children act out in public spaces leaving parents feeling helpless, worried, and often walking on eggshells fearful of the next time their child will have an emotional outburst.

Here’s the thing, there may be something going on with your child that warrants additional support. Your child may have anxiety, explosive anger or mood disorder; or it may be something much more simple than that. It may be that your child has not learned ways to manage their behaviors and emotions.

Here are 7 tips to help your child manage their out of control behaviors.

1. You are the parent and your child is looking for you to set the rules and boundaries of what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. As a parent it’s your job to provide feedback to help your child become aware of their behaviors, and to offer your child support to help them connect and modify behaviors. Children learn from your actions and behaviors, so get crystal clear on what’s okay behavior and what is not.

2. Acknowledge their feelings. Often children are acting out because they are upset, bored, annoyed, nervous, mad, sad, excited, hungry, tired (among other feelings, needs, and wants). By identifying your child’s feelings and behaviors your child will become more aware of their own feeling, behaviors, and wants. For example a child who is clinging to you and interrupting you as you speak you can acknowledge their behaviors and feelings, “ I can tell you want my attention now, and what you have to say is very important, when I am done speaking then I can listen to what you have to say”.

3. Let your child know when they are acting inappropriately. When you notice the negative behaviors it’s time step in and let your child know what is expected. Be clear, direct, and assertive without becoming angry and aggressive. For example, “The sofa is not for jumping, please stop”.

4. Allow your child to self-correct. If it is not a safety issue give your child an opportunity to hear what you have requested. You may need to step closer, look into their eyes, put a hand on their shoulder, or meet them at eye level and state what it is that you want them to do, then give them a few seconds to process what is being requested.

5. If your child continues to act and disregard your request, it is time to step into your parenting authority. In a calm manner let your child know what the consequences of their behaviors will be if they do not stop. Do this is as calmly as possible. Recent studies in brain-based research suggest we mirror the emotional responses of those we are connecting with. Unconsciously (and at times consciously) children want you to be as upset as they are. By staying calm and in your parenting authority you unplug power struggles and help your child regulate their feelings and behaviors. By getting upset you fuel their emotional outbursts further.

6. Consequences need to be immediate and meaningful, and you need to follow-though. Here’s the tricky part for most parents, they may become so upset at their child’s behaviors that they make a threat that is unrealistic, like taking away the TV for a month. Then when parents are calm they realize it may be difficult to monitor the consequence, and they decide to lessen the consequences or never follow-through. Children are very aware and learn by your behaviors. When you do not follow-through on consequences they realize that your consequences are not to be taken seriously, and they disregard your requests.

7. If your child needs more support in helping them to change their behaviors then you can help by developing a positive rewards system for younger children and a behavior contract for tweens and teens. I have witnessed children make dramatic transformations in their behaviors with these strategies, and I‘ve seen these strategies flop. What makes these behavior agreements work is when parents and children both are invested and the goals are realistic and achievable.

I recommend these 7 tips to the families I work with and support them to create their own individualized strategies to best support their child to get back in control of their behaviors. If you are concerned about your child’s behaviors try these strategies and if your child continues to struggle, seek out support.

If you would like more tools and strategies to help your child join me, Dr. Laura Dessauer (the Creativity Queen), on the YourTango Facebook Fan Page Thursday, Aug 25th at 2:00pm EST. I’ll be taking over the page and answering your questions to best help your child. We’ll be talking about heading back to school, bad behaviors, tantrums, shutdowns and meltdowns, what to do if you have a child when needs extra support and lots more. I’m looking forward to sharing valuable insider tools that will help your child and family positively communicate and connect!

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