Maryland Modern Family Counseling
Is your child a Jeckyll and Hyde?
Does your child look like an angel outside of the house and then terrorize everyone the minute she walks in the door? Would her teachers be floored if they could spy on your child at home for just one family dinner?
Some kids manage to lead a double life. At home they are miserable, demanding and will tantrum over everything and nothing. Nothing seems to work to manage the behavior. Parents bend over backwards to give consequences and rewards. They try the sticker charts and talks, lectures and screaming but nothing works. Meanwhile, other kids in the family seem to be just fine. So what is the problem?
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Who knows exactly what the problem is but some kids just seem to need to test the boundaries more than others. They may actually be more motivated by the negative attention than the positive. Negative attention tends to be very intense and emotional. Positive attention is gentle and more laid back. A quiet child is easy to ignore while you do all the other things on your list. A tantruming child demands full attention, whether you like it or not.
So what can a parent do? The answer isn’t going to be a simple one if your child is a Jeckyll and Hyde type, but there is one basic concept that every parent can use to manage meltdowns. Give lots of attention during the good moments and as little as possible during the dramatics. How you might ask?
During the calm times engage with your child with simple games and silliness. You count all the green things you can on the cereal aisle while he counts all the blue ones and see who wins. Sing songs in the car and give each other hand massages while you watch TV in the evening. Don’t just pat your child on the head and tell her she is being good, engage with her fully, be present.
During her moody times walk away, don’t say a word. Don’t lecture, yell, threaten or otherwise engage in the dramatics. If possible send her directly to her room (but don’t repeat yourself or get into a battle). If you are in public, do a time out in the car for as long as it takes. Send the message that you are not going to go there with her. Later, when things have calmed down decide on a consequence. Don’t tell her what the consequence is until the right time. When is the right time? The next time she decides to watch TV or get on the computer is the right time to let her know that she has not earned that privilege as a result of the previous tantrum. Be prepared for the resulting tantrum. Wash and repeat. When she sees that you aren’t going to cave in and her only options are to play the game your way or be very bored for a long time, she will change her tune.
I’m making it sound rather simple here, trust me, it isn’t. If your little Jeckyll and Hyde is making everyone miserable, please, give me a buzz and I will help you navigate this tricky path. I’ve been down it before with plenty of parents and can help lead the way.
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