When Your Child is Out of Control
I had an interview session over the weekend. One of the questions that was put up to me was: How do you handle frustrating behaviours from your child? You know, those kind of behaviour that never give you an alert! They just happen! Case study: Have you ever cut your child’s toast into a rectangle when triangles were expected? I bet you can relate!
Our children expose our weak points and challenge us daily. We simply have to take the challenge and be mindful of it.
We talk a lot about the importance of teaching kids self-regulation- but what about our own? How do we develop these skills? How can I teach my son to handle his frustration when sometimes I can’t handle my own? Truth is children count on us a parents to learn rules of socialization. Question is what are you teaching?
Self-regulation is not a skill to master or an inherent trait, but rather a journey within ourselves that can always grow, change, and adapt.
So how do we get to respond calmly to the irritated, and sometimes at a battle of wills reaction from these little creatures?
One useful tool to deploy here is reframing. By the time my first child was four years old, he already had two other siblings! Yet, being the ‘oldest’ child, I had expectations that I did not have of my now 8 year old who is the fifth on the row when he was four! I used to forget often then, that he too was a child- expected to act out of control, impulsive, and overexcited sometimes.
Even though part of our job as parents is to help our children develop, so also is it to accept where they are!
Rebecca Eanes, Author of The Newbie’s guide to Positive parenting said: “So often, children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods and bad days, yet we adults have them all the time! We think if we don’t nip it in the bud, it will escalate and we will lose control. Let go of that unfounded fear and give your child permission to be human. We all have days like that. None of us are perfect, and we must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can’t attain ourselves. All of the punishments you could throw at them will not stamp out their humanity, for to err is human, and we all do it sometimes.”
So, how do we reframe a behaviour that throws us off balance?
The next time your child screams because you cut the toast wrong, yells because they can’t get the Lego structure right, has a breakdown when you ask him to brush his teeth or just starts whirling around in a ball of emotions for seemingly no reason — just look at him and observe.
Observe him as if he is another planet because, in a way, they are. Remember that their brains aren’t like ours yet. See their smallness. Observe with open curiosity and really see them. Once you really look at them, you’ll begin to empathize with these little being who just can’t even right now!
Print out inspirational quotes to remind yourself to be open to their bad days, crankiness, and lack of regulation. Stick them around your house to help you remember to adjust your expectations and see you child for where they are in that moment. Examples of such words to post up are: “I am in charge of being calm no matter how my child behaves”, “A child who is out of control needs the calm assurance of someone who is in control”, “The way we talk to our children become their inner voice”, “Do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace”, “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join the chaos”, etc.
What is the effect of these? It prepares and shifts you from the default reaction of joining in and also having an emotional escalation. This works.