Monday, October 14, 2019

Update on treatment strategies for 7 yr old

I've had a few questions about the last blog post:  why start with keeping track of your child's triggers and not working on calming strategies until later.  The reason is that most young children do not sense that their anger is about to reach the overload stage. Most young children are not aware of what is going on in their heads that is leading to an outburst.  So first parents need to observe what are their child's usual triggers, and then divert their child when a trigger is about to happen.  Emotional distraction is often an effective technique to head off an outburst.  If you can get your child to laugh, for example, it is less likely that your child will fly into a rage.

When you have been able to reduce the frequency of outbursts, then you want your child to develop a greater awareness of his emotional states.  I use color labels and encourage the child to use a label for his anger.  Red is hot, orange is warm, and blue is cool.  I recommend you go over an anger episode after it is over, and look at what the trigger was.  What color was his anger when you said something (like "it is time to turn off the game system") and then when he said something (like "not yet Mom")?  Review the script and help your child to label each step with a color.  By doing this, you are helping your child to become aware of the level of his anger.  Once he is getting the hang of this (after a month or more) then try to gently label his anger while an episode is happening.  Ask if he agrees with your label.  If your child has already reached the red hot level, it is less likely he will be able to have this kind of discussion with you.  Better to wait for another opportunity.

Once your child has some awareness of his anger then you would encourage him to learn calming strategies, like relaxation or mantras, to help himself calm down.  This step is outlined in my books and on this blog.  Remember you probably won't be successful with this step if your child is not yet able to observe his emotional state.  In that case, you would stick with emotional distraction, or try changing the situation from the start, to avoid an angry scene. 

Best, David Gottlieb, Ph.D.