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When Children’s Stormy Behavior Threatens, Having a Plan in Place Is a Must

June 14th, 2017     By Father Steven Boes | President and National Executive Director | Boys Town

Parenting Skills

For people across most of the country, stormy weather is just a fact of life at this time of the year.

Thunderstorms, tornadoes, damaging winds, hail, heavy rains and flooding can wreak havoc and dramatically disrupt our daily routines.

That’s why we are continually encouraged by the weather experts to be prepared and have a plan for safely riding out the storms that come our way. This might include keeping a flashlight, extra batteries, water, nonperishable food and a portable radio stored away in case of emergency. We’re also cautioned to pay attention to weather watches and warnings, and follow certain procedures to stay safe.

In much the same way families prepare for stormy weather, parents also have to be ready for times when their young children’s “behavioral” storms – tantrums and other out-of-control behaviors – threaten to disrupt daily family life.

At Boys Town, we have developed two effective ways to help parents address these situations.

The first is teaching children specific calming strategies they can use when they’re upset, angry, defiant or frustrated. These can include:

  • Slowly counting to 10.
  • Taking deep breaths.
  • Saying the “ABCs” backwards.
  • Getting a favorite stuffed animal to hug.
  • Going to a regular “cool-down” spot for a few minutes of quiet time before you and your child talk about the behavior.

The second way to address a young child’s stormy behavior is called the “5-minute rule.” This is designed for families with more than one child, and requires other children to leave, within five minutes, the area where you are trying to calm the child who is losing self-control. This removes an “audience” for the child to play to and prevents the other kids from egging him or her on and making the behavior worse. Not having others around watching also makes it easier for the child to focus on your instructions and eventually calm down.

Of course, when it comes to dealing with a young child’s out-of-control behaviors, prevention is the best approach. Providing many opportunities for your children to practice controlling their emotions when they are calm makes it much more likely that they’ll know what to do when they actually get upset.

But when the clouds of out-of-control behavior are threatening, staying calm and having a reliable plan to turn to is the best way to ride out the storm and get things back to normal.

To learn more about effectively handling tantrums, read this article on the Boys Town’s parenting website.

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