Wednesday, December 5, 2012

9 year old won't go to his room to chill

Dr. Gottlieb, We have a 9 year old boy who gets really angry sometimes when his leggos break, sometimes when we send him to his room for fighting with his younger brother, and sometimes when we tell him do do something.  We try to catch his anger at an early stage and ask that he go to his room for a few minutes to calm himself, but he usually refuses.  So we started leaving the room and ignoring him.  He seems to calm down faster then, but we worry that he is getting the message that it is okay to argue with us or fight with his brother.  Any other suggestions?

Hi, When you establish a "go to" place for anger overload, discuss it with your child ahead of time, and do not pick the same place that you use for a time out or a punishment.  Even though you are not punishing your child when you ask him to chill in his room, he may see it as a punishment, especially if his room is also used for time outs.  When your child is beginning to overheat, instead of asking him to leave the room, suggest that he take three slow deep breaths.  The deep breaths may help him to slow down.  Anything he does for a few moments may help him to gain more control of his anger.  Once he is in full overload, though, anything you say will probably lead to his responding with more anger.

Your idea to leave the room is also a good one.  Another option is to stay in the room but stop talking until your child is calmer.  If your child is not receiving any verbal feedback from you while he is getting angry, he is more likely to settle down.  I do not think your child will see your leaving the room as a "victory."   You will still expect him to do what you asked after he calms down.

Another option for the issue of his fighting with his brother would be to have them both cooperate to earn smiley faces each day if they do not fight.  They either both get the smiley face, or neither do.  They can then trade one, two, or three smiley faces for a fun activity, like a card game, with you or your spouse.  (The number of smiley faces needed to earn the game time depends on how immediate you think the reward needs to be for them to be motivated.)   

Finally, do not forget to review with your child the sequence of events after each blow up is over.  Once your child is calm, you want to briefly talk with him about what was the trigger and what else he could do if it happens again.  You do this regularly later in the day when there has been an upset, so that your child begins to recognize what causes his outbursts and so that eventually he may catch the sequence before he explodes.  During anger overload, it is hard for most children (and adults for that matter) to think about alternative behaviors, but the more you go over examples with your child, the sooner he may remember at the crucial moments when he gets angry. 

If the leggos breaking continues to trigger his anger, you might also create a list of sayings that your child could think of when he starts to get mad.  For example, one could be "leggos break eventually" or "we can always fix it."  You write them on a sheet of paper that you can look at with your child after future blow ups.  The purpose is to get your child to expect difficulties, in other words, to help your child develop more realistic expectations.  I explain more about his in my parent's manual.  All the best, Dr. Gottlieb

No comments:

Post a Comment