It is understandable that when your child acts aggressively, you feel overwhelmed. You may not know what to do or where to turn. Try not to panic, your child’s aggressive behaviors can be helped. Although medication can help to reduce symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, and other mood disorders, it will not fix behavior. The key to reducing behaviors is a behavioral approach that involves both you and your child. Here are some ways to help your child.
Find the triggers
The very first thing you need to do is to start find what triggers your child to become aggressive or angry. You should be able to notice specific times or situations that cause your child has outbursts. Once you find what is triggering your child, you can work on reducing this trigger or implement different strategies. For example, if getting ready for school is a trigger, you can try to have a check list for them of each thing that needs to be completed or attempt to have them wake up a little earlier for extra time.
The way you respond to their outburst is key. You want to reinforce positive behavior by encouraging or rewarding them. You also want to give consistent consequences for the behaviors you want to discourage. Your child will respond better to more structure, which includes a calm and consistent response they can count on. If you threaten to take an item away if they have an outburst, make sure you do take that item away.
Don’t give in
It is very tempting to give into the temper tantrum and give them what they want. If you give in to the tantrums, you will be teaching your child that the way they get what they want is by having an outburst. This goes along with reinforcing the behavior. If they continue to get what they want, they will continue to have outbursts.
Wait to talk until the meltdown is over
It can be nearly impossible to reason with a child when they are upset. Don’t try to talk to them when they are not ready to. You will get a lot further with the conversation if you wait until they are calm. Make sure to have a calm conversation with them after each meltdown, which will help you figure out the triggers. A lot of times, kids will have meltdowns to convey their emotions when they do not know how to verbally express themselves. Giving them this time to talk can help prevent future tantrums.
Create a “calm down” toolkit with your child
Take a box and fill it with tools for self-soothing, such as stress balls, bubbles, bubble wrap, or anything they can take their aggression out on in a healthy way. You can also write cues in the box, such as “take 5 deep breaths”. Work on this with your child and put it in an area where they normally have their meltdowns. This will teach them that they have the tools to be able to clam themselves down.
Work with a therapist
You can bring your child to a therapist who specializes in working with children to assist them with being able to emotionally express themselves in healthy ways. It is also helpful for parents to work with therapists for parent training. To work with a therapist who specializes in parent training, click here.