A Guide for Parents
- For parents to have strategies to feel in control at home
- For your child to accept parental boundaries and use strategies to manage feelings
- To prevent situations escalating to an aggressive or destructive level
Suggested Strategies for your child:
Set expectations and prepare your child for what he has choice over and what he has to do. Be clear in your use of language so this message is clear, e.g. “We will be …” or “Do you want to …” (At first make sure that the things he has to do are easy to follow through on so there is success)
Ensure there are daily opportunities for positive, age appropriate interaction with Mum or Dad or both. This can involve other siblings where opportunities for turn taking and sharing can be practised. If the game or activity does go wrong, end it with the adult in control. For example “well, it’s a shame we couldn’t finish the game, but we can play something else tomorrow.”
Discuss with your child expectations in the house that everyone is trying to follow. Discuss how everyone is going to try and avoid swearing and violence and allow your child the responsibility of choosing somewhere to go to that is not a family shared space. This is likely to be his bedroom, but it could perhaps be a space that they perceives is not used much by others which could be negotiated as their place. They are more likely to use it if they feel they have had some ownership over the decision. Once this has been agreed, they may like to draw a picture or make a sign that identifies their place.
When situations start to escalate:
Set the expectation and then walk away and dis-engage, if he is demanding attention in an in-appropriate way, simply mirror back to him what he is doing, e.g. “You’re shouting”. Never respond to what he is saying when he is shouting. He needs to lower his voice and speak politely to be acknowledged and listened to.
Encourage him to think how he could deal with his feelings in a positive way. “You don’t need to do this” (if he is starting to be destructive or violent). This encourages him to think about his choices. “You can talk to me or go to your place” Again this gives him choice. If he starts shouting reflect back to him what he is doing. If he is shouting, he is showing that he is motivated to communicate with you and so the strategy of saying; “You’re shouting” will work if reinforced calmly but firmly.
Make sure that when adults intervene it is effective i.e. your child is responsive. If not, it does need to be followed up later. Even is this is just him acknowledging that he understood what you were trying to say to him. “Do you understand why I was trying to speak to you about this earlier? Do you now agree and accept this?” If he goes into refusal or it starts to escalate again, merely say, we will need to talk about it again later. Come back to the issue when he is wanting your attention or is motivated now by something he is asking you for, “Yes, but first you do need to understand what I was talking to you about earlier.”
Re-enforce positive behaviour. If your child is talking or explaining a problem make sure he is actively listened to and he sees this is responded to. It won’t always be possible for him to have his way, but having the adults engage with him in explanations and compromise are part of him learning that there is a benefit in talking and communicating appropriately.
Management of situations when your child is very angry / annoyed etc
The most important strategy that your child will learn from, is having anger management modelled to him. It is important that everyone in the house tries to apply strategies when angry to avoid swearing or the use of violence. If your child sees other people really trying to control anger, he will be more positive in his application of strategies.
Ignore as much as possible; ensure everyone is safe, by focusing attention on others in the family. The message that you are trying to give your child at this point is that he doesn’t deserve your attention at the moment and that others in the family are going to get it. Playing a game with Joe may motivate your child to want to come and join in, if he is then motivated, you will be in control of the boundaries for him. “If you want to join in you need to pick up the things you threw and acknowledge you were wrong to hit”. Try and stay with Joe at this point letting your child take responsibility for sorting out his wrong doing. He can then join the game when he has resolved things, this way he sees that he gets your attention for positive behaviour.
Avoid shouting back at your child, this is modelling the wrong thing.
Try and avoid a physical battle with him, he will learn best when he sees a reason for turning his behaviour round, this way he makes the decision and his mind set changes. So it is much better to remind him what to do – or give him choices – and then allow some take up time so he can problem solve it himself.
Using statements of reality such as “you’re shouting”, “you’re being violent” are good strategies that reflect back to him what he is doing without putting a direct instruction to him at this point. If he is given a direct instruction that he then refuses the adult becomes ineffective. your child needs to learn that the adults are in control and effective. These statements of reality: “You won’t get it by doing this.” “I have already said no and what you are doing is not going to change my mind” are good strategies and reinforce who is in control as long as this is followed through and the “meltdown” does not change the decision.
Resolving and Rebuilding
This is all about your child learning from situations. He learns that he was wrong to deal with his feelings in this way and he has to take responsibility to resolve it. He also learns what he should do in the future to deal with strong feelings.
- All thrown objects are picked up by your child
- Anything destroyed is picked up and put in the bin or mended by your child
- your child has acknowledged that he was wrong to hit / kick etc and sorted this out with whoever has been hurt (e.g. said sorry)
- your child has acknowledged what he should have done instead (e.g. taken himself to his room)
Don’t over-praise for the resolve. He is just putting right what he has done wrong. Give praise and attention for calmness and politeness following the rebuild and use this time for positive attention if he is keen for this i.e. the opportunity to play together. However if he just wants to be on his own, respect this too, as long as he is calm. If he is still angry it is not totally resolved.
Communicating other feelings:
Encourage your child to communicate other feelings than anger. Console and give attention to him being upset, disappointed or sad. Help label these feelings for him sensitively and offer him options for dealing with these things. E.g.“It is sad, would you like a hug?” It is important that he learns to recognise and express these kinds of feelings, which can be appropriately comforted.