A March 11 article in the Capital Times cites that a full 2/3 of Madison schools has a calming room on the premises for help in dealing with out of control students. While a calming room can be useful with students who suffer from sensory issues such as autism, they aren't a usual fixture in most homes. How, then can parents deal with intense behaviors at home?
What is an intense behavior? It can look differently for each child. Some children throw themselves on the floor and flail their arms and legs. Some swear and throw things. Some steal money or cars. Some hide under the bed and refuse to talk to anyone for hours at a time.
How can a parent deal with one?
1. Stay with your child. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to wait until Johnny calms down or let Susie cool off. But if your child can get you focused on something other than the situation at hand she has won. She has also learned that she can get out of things by having a behavior. By staying with your child and encouraging her to respond in a positive manner she learns how to handle a difficult situation instead of fighting through it.
2. Keep your own cool. The theory is the same as it is when you fight with a friend or a spouse, if you respond in anger, you will say things that you regret. And those things said to a child, even a teenager, can leave deep scars. Children are not above yelling and swearing and telling parents "You're the worst mom ever!" Then coming back to us an hour later for a hug. Be the grown up. If you are prone to anger, then find someone to practice with. Get a friend to provoke you and practice keeping your calm.
3. Remember it can't last. When a child is yelling and screaming and stomping around, they are at the height of adrenaline and emotion. There is only so long that they can stay at that point. Just wait it out and then have a calm conversation about what happened.
4. Debrief. If your child is old enough, sit down and have a conversation about why this behavior occurred and make a plan to have a more successful outcome next time. If your child is too young, sit down by yourself or with your spouse and see if there was a predecessor for the behavior. Was the child over tired? Was he upset about school? Did she have a fight with a friend?
Being a parent is hard work. But we can make life a little easier for our families, a little easier for our kids if we stick with them and teach them how to be effective in the world.