April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Anger is often the beginning of any situation where verbal, physical, or emotional abuse occurs. It can be hard to stay calm and to help your children stay calm when chaos seems to be all around. Children of different ages express their anxiety or fear differently. Younger children are more likely to act out their stress, anxiety, or fear through their behavior which can upset parents that are already feeling stressed. Older children and teens may act extra irritable when they are feeling upset or out of control. Keeping healthy routines can help to create a sense of order and calm. Structure the day with wake-up routines, chores, exercise, homework, play time, and social time. Also, try to keep a normal nighttime routine. Too little sleep makes it more challenging to learn and to deal with emotions. Remember to turn off cell phones and other devices an hour before bedtime! Here are some more tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics that can help you and your children keep calm in chaos!
USE POSITIVE DISCIPLINE
- Redirect bad behavior. Sometimes children misbehave because they are bored or don’t know any better. Find something else for them to do.
- Creative play. Suggest your children draw pictures, or build an indoor fort or castle. Use your imagination to help them use theirs!
- Direct your attention. Attention to reinforce good behaviors and discourage others–is a powerful tool. Notice good behavior and point it out, praising success and good tries. Explaining clear expectations, particularly with older children can help with this.
- Use rewards & privileges to reinforce good behaviors (completing school assignments, chores, getting along with siblings, etc.). Sometimes during difficult times, it is ok to give more rewards and privileges even if they wouldn’t normally be given during less stressful times.
- Know when not to respond. As long as your child isn’t doing something dangerous and gets attention for good behavior, ignoring bad behavior can be an effective way of stopping it.
- Use time-outs. This discipline tool works best by warning children they will get a time-out if they don’t stop. Remind them what they did wrong in as few words―and with as little emotion―as possible. Then, remove them from the situation for a pre-set length of time (1 minute per year of age is a good guide).
- Set aside special time with each child. You choose the time, and let your child choose the activity. It can be cooking, reading together, or playing a favorite game. Just 10-20 minutes of your undivided attention, even if only once every few days will mean a lot to your child. Keep cell phones off or on silent so you don’t get distracted!
- Avoid physical punishment. Spanking, hitting, or other forms of physical punishment risks injury and isn’t effective. Physical punishment can increase aggressive behavior in children over time, and fails to teach them to behave or practice self-control. It can even interfere with normal brain development. These types of punishment can take away a child’s sense of safety and security at home, which is needed to help them feel calm.
If you feel like you are getting angry and might lose control, try the following:
- Take a deep breath and count to 10.
- Take a few seconds to ask yourself the following questions. In many cases, the answers will deflate the panic and the impulse to lash out physically or verbally at your children.
- Does the problem represent an immediate danger?
- How will I feel about this problem tomorrow?
- Is this situation permanent?
- Place your baby in a safe place, leave the room, and let your baby cry alone for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Call someone close to you for emotional support.
- Call your child’s doctor. There may be a medical reason why your baby is crying.
- Be patient. Colicky and fussy babies eventually grow out of their crying phase. Keeping your baby safe is the most important thing you can do. Even if you feel frustrated, stay in control and handle your baby with care.
- Take care of yourself. Caregivers need to remember to take care of themselves physically: eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Find ways to decompress and take breaks. If more than one parent is home, take turns watching the children if possible.
The AAP reminds parents and caregivers NEVER TO SHAKE OR JERK A CHILD. This can cause permanent injuries, disabilities, and even death.
If you have concerns about your child’s behavior or health issues they are experiencing, contact your pediatrician at The Pediatric Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho or Rigby, Idaho. Our medical staff at The Pediatric Center currently consists of seven Board Certified Pediatricians and three Certified Pediatric Physician Assistants. We have been serving eastern Idaho for over 55 years providing quality pediatric care and offering extended hours so we can better serve your family and their health care needs.
Some content provided by The American Academy of Pediatrics https://healthychildren.org/