It’s happened again.
Your third-grader was sent out of class again for shoving a classmate in the hallway. Frustrated, discouraged, you wonder what set him off this time. Was he tired? Did he get a bad grade on a test? Whatever the reason, you’re at a loss of what to do: how can you help your child learn how to control himself?
1) Keep an eye on the intake/outtake pipes.
I was often bewildered when out of the blue, one of my children would suddenly go ballistic for no obvious reason. Eventually I figured out that he hadn’t eaten; once he ate, he was transfigured back to hi s regular persona.
If you notice your child turning aggressive with no noticeable pattern, consider insisting he eat a protein snack, such as cheese, peanut butter, or natural beef jerky. Bananas, which are full of potassium, are also a quick picker-upper.
A friend of mine noticed her child often acts out when he needs to use the bathroom. For some reason, the sensory stimulation is too much for him.
2) Consider whether your child is in sensory overload.
Children with sensory issues can appear persnickety. One morning they can handle seeing tomatoes on a sibling’s plate, while the next they can smell them in the closed refrigerator. It’s not done purposely, although it may seem like it. Picture your child’s sensory system as a plastic 8 oz. cup. Loud alarm clock (2 oz.) + strong shampoo smell (1 oz) + getting your hair brushed (4 oz.) =OVERLOAD.
Some days this happens sooner, and some days it might not happen at all, depending what your child’s triggers are. While some children turn inwards when this happens, others explode in a cascading ball of rage and frustration.
Teach your child to be more aware of his sensory triggers, and encourage him to engage in soothing activities that will help him empty his “cup,” and you’ll uncover a more peaceful child.
3) Teach your child to express himself.
No, I don’t mean your child should take up mixed martial arts or explore the fine art of hang gliding – though that may be interesting. Instead, consider the fact that because children with language development issues have trouble expressing their feelings, needs, and wants, they are often trapped by unpleasant feelings and thoughts tumbling around in their heads.
Talking about how he feels may be a task beyond your child for the moment, but you can help him loosen the release valve by joining in while he plays. Letting him take the lead helps give him a sense of control, while pretend play is a safe way for him to experiment with his desire for control, or need to be dependent.
4) Don’t forget to spend more time with your child.
When your child acts up, it’s a natural response to be so angry at your child that you can’t even look him in the face for a while. While it’s understandable to you however, it will definitely sour your relationship with your child.
Tightening the valves on one aspect of your child’s behavior means you need to find a way to loosen them somewhere else. Be sure to spend more time doing something enjoyable with your child. Whether it’s reading an extra chapter of a favorite book at bedtime, or sharing a cuddle in the early morning, it’s important to spend time accentuating the positives.