WHY DO SOME KIDS STRUGGLE WITH PROBLEM BEHAVIOUR?
When children have frequent emotional outbursts, it can be a sign that they haven’t yet developed the skills they need to cope with feelings like frustration, anxiety and anger. Handling big emotions in a healthy, mature way requires a variety of skills, including:
Communicating wishes and needs to adults
Knowing what’s appropriate or expected in a given situation
Other children may seem to struggle more with boundaries and following rules. They may be defiant or ignore instructions or try to talk their way out of things that aren’t optional. You may notice patterns of behavior that seem to crop up at certain times of the day (like bedtime) during certain tasks (like during homework) or with certain people. You also might notice that your child acts out particularly when she is at home but not when she is at school, or vice versa.
STRATEGIES FOR RESPONDING IN THE MOMENT
Don’t give in. Resist the temptation to end your child’s tantrum by giving her what she wants when she explodes. Giving in teaches her that tantrums work.
Remain calm. Harsh or emotional responses tend to escalate a child’s aggression, be it verbal or physical. By staying calm, you’re also modeling for your child the type of behavior you want to see in him.
Ignore negative behavior and praise positive behavior. Ignore minor misbehavior, since even negative attention like reprimanding or telling the child to stop can reinforce her actions. Instead, provide lots of labeled praise on behaviors you want to encourage. (Don’t just say “good job,” say “good job calming down.”)
Use consistent consequences. Your child needs to know what the consequences are for negative behaviors, such as time outs, as well as rewards for positive behaviors, like time on the iPad. And you need to show him you follow through with these consequences every time.
Wait to talk until the meltdown is over. Don’t try to reason with a child who is upset. You want to encourage a child to practice negotiating when she’s not blowing up (and you’re not either).