How to deal with tantrums by increasing self-regulation

Self-Reg Book Reviews

Self-Reg by Dr.Stuart Shanker, published 2016, gives parents an entirely new way of understanding a child’s behavior.

If you want to help your child calm and avoid tantrums, learn to truly calm yourself and stop responding by raising your voice, threatening or punishing your child for misbehaving. The book Self-Reg will teach you how.

Dr. Shanker says it is crucial for parents, teachers and principals to distinguish between self-control and self-regulation. This idea also applies to the distinction between misbehavior and stress behavior.  Parents often struggle with tantrums caused by stress behavior. If the parent or teacher fails to make these distinctions and react to the child’s behavior as if it is a choice to behave badly, chances are the parent responds with agitation or even worst, a raised voice or harsh punishment. Shaker explains harsh punishment will often send the child into a “freeze response” and the adult concludes with some satisfaction that their punishment “worked.” In fact, this type of response can make matters worse, adding to the child’s stress level and tantrum behavior.

If you have a “sensitive child,” they might have a very delicate danger alarm deep within the brain, in an area called the limbic system. Your kid may become easily aroused on an emotional and a physical level due to the response of their central nervous system. What your child needs the most is safety and soothing, not threats and aggression. Dr. Shaker describes the functioning of the emotional brain in some detail, but ultimately uses the metaphors of the “gas pedal” which speeds everything up and the “brake” which slows everything down.

If you have a child that is having temper tantrums, emotional meltdowns, or seems to ignore you, then you will find this book an eye-opener. It gives parents a different way of seeing and understanding the behaviors of their child. When parents begin to view their child’s tantrums and other challenging behaviors in terms of “self-regulation in response to stress, arousal and energy levels, rather than in terms of [the lack of] self-control and [the lack of] compliance,” then the parents can begin to think about a whole new way of responding to that child. One of the most important ways of responding differently is that the parent realizes the need to calm their own emotional brain in order to help the child calm theirs.  Learn to first calm yourself to help kids avoid tantrums.  Dr. Shanker calls this “interbrain communication” which is always occurring on an unconscious basis and is more important than words. This is the same process by which most mothers and many fathers sooth their infants intuitively. But if parents are unhappy, even slightly annoyed or agitated with a child’s behavior, this is stressful to the child in and of itself and is more likely to increase, not decrease tantrums.

This book was exciting for me to read as a professional who works with parents with children who struggle with their self-regulation. I wish there were more practical tools to help parents calm their own limbic systems (emotional brains) and that of their child. The parts of the book that tell personal stories of parents and children help illustrate the concepts Dr. Shanker is describing. These parts are helpfully set off with a different print and borders for easy referencing.  If you are a parent who suspects your child might have a self-regulation problem and you are seeking a better understanding of what your child is experiencing and how you can respond in a more helpful manner, I highly recommend this book.

Joe L. Freeman, LCSW

 

Seven MYTHS of Effective Parenting

  1. Punishment will change bad behavior.
  2. More reminders lead to better behavior.
  3. Explaining to your child why a behavior is wrong will lead him to stop that behavior.
  4. Lots of praise just spoils your child.
  5. Doing it once or twice means your child can do it regularly.
  6. My other child did not need extra training, so this child shouldn’t need it either.
  7. My child is just being manipulative.

The real story is that:

7mythsaboutparentingYou can get rid of almost any misbehavior by rewarding the positive opposite behavior.

Sign up to learn more and be part of our Peace at Home Parenting family.

Does Ignoring Your Children Work?

Ignore misbehavior whenever possible – especially attention seeking misbehaviors
like: whining, complaining, moping or “water power.”

Two potential problems with ignoring –

  1. Child may raise the ante – the misbehavior gets worse before it gets better.
  2. Child may also become aggressive to force attention from the parent. You can give a time out or take away a privilege for kicking or hitting. Stay calm. Use neutral, disinterested tone of voice

Build the foundation for positive behavior – Each day give 20 minutes of uninterrupted, quality attention to each child:

  • Be “present” Put aside your behavior goals
  • Put aside your own “agenda” Take delight in your child
  • Be interested in your child — relax, enjoy, listen, watch, describe

Checklist for Parents

happy peace at home parentsFollow some of these daily practices to for more effective parenting in your home:

check markAre you spending 20 minutes of one-on-one, un-interrupted, positive time with your child every day? You have no agenda, no teaching points, no technology—just having fun, enjoying your child, smiling, encouraging and seeing what is right with your child. And saying positive things out loud to your child enthusiastically!

check markAre you interacting with your child in a calm, respectful manner all (or at least almost all) of the time? This means listening carefully, praising, encouraging, describing what the child is doing right, acknowledging effort and progress, making requests respectfully and correcting in ways that preserve your child’s self-worth.

check mark Is the atmosphere in your home calm and kind? Do people speak respectfully to each other? What is the noise level? Are people yelling? How many hours is the TV on? Is your child watching TV or playing video games less than an hour or two each day? Do you sit down together for a family meal at least daily? Is there quiet time?

check markAre you using discipline methods that increase cooperation and build self-worth?  Do you bring your attention to the behaviors that you do want? Do you use effective praise to eliminate unwanted behavior? Do you refrain from harsh punishment and apply mild punishment to enhance your discipline approach?


check mark
Is your child’s daily schedule predictable? Does it match your child’s age and temperament? Are there set routines? Does the morning routine allow positive contact? Does the bed-time routine include some soothing, positive attention for your child—talking, story-telling, reading, cuddling, good night kiss? Are the times in between pretty consistent from day to day, including down time and play time?

check markIs your child eating a healthy, nutritious diet and physically active every day? This means limiting sugar, caffeine and processed foods and offering a variety of healthy foods. Are you all getting adequate sleep?

check markAre you taking care of yourself? Do you give yourself time to regenerate? Do you ask for and receive support from your partner, family and/or friends? Do you eat healthy food and exercise regularly? Are you caring for yourself in the way you hope your child will care for him or herself when your child grows up?

Download your Checklist for Parents P@H

Raise Happy Children: Parenting for Optimism and Resilience

Tonight from  8:15 PM – 9:15 PM you can register for “Raising Happy Children”

register for free parenting class

While temperament is inborn, parents can actually help children increase optimism (positive outlook and hopefulness) and resilience (ability to effectively bounce back from challenges). These capacities are strongly connected to well-being and success. You will recognize be able to define happiness and recognize its importance. You will be able to apply day to day approaches that increase both optimism and resilience in your children as well as yourself.

Peace At Home ParentingThis live online class is designed for parents of children ages 2 – 12 years old. Following the class you will be invited to join our private Facebook group in which you will have access to a community of caring parents like you, working to apply new parenting approaches. Our Peace At Home Parenting Facebook community will be a place to share challenges and successes. You will also have ongoing regular contact with Ruth Freeman, webinar trainer, through the Facebook community.

In addition, you will receive access to free monthly “Question and Answer” sessions in which you will be coached in applying the skills you learned in Peace at Home webinars and again you will connect with other parents working to improve skills.

Parents: Teach Your Brain to Practice Gratitude

Our brains are like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. We notice, remember and focus on the negative far more effectively than the positive.

There are two important things about this biological fact for parents:

  • You are more likely to notice your child’s misbehavior than positive behavior. And since you notice it, you will be more likely to give your child attention for her negative behavior. Since children long for attention – especially from you – you are likely to be rewarding misbehavior with plenty of attention and overlooking lots of positive behavior that your brain just doesn’t notice on its own.
  • Your children will grow up with this same focus on the negative unless you help them train their brains otherwise.

Some of us are born with a “glass half-full” temperament so this tendency on the part of our brains may be minimized somewhat in those cases. However, this neurological inclination to notice and remember the negative is true for everyone, especially under stress. So what can you do?

Your brain can be trained in the same way you train your body at the gym. Practice, repeat, practice, repeat and you get stronger. One simple training you can provide yourself and your child are practices of gratitude. Not only do these train your brain to focus on the positive, but they also change the atmosphere of your family and influence your children’s behavior toward more cooperation.

In our family we held hands before dinner every evening and each person said one thing he or she appreciated about the day. It helped settle everyone down for the meal, made it more of an “occasion,” and helped us hear a little about each other’s day and view of the world. Perhaps most importantly, it taught our brains to scan each day for the positive. And with practice, your brain gets better and better with that underlying search for the positive. We continued to say our mealtime “appreciations” through adolescence and to this day even though they are all adults. Now our kids are doing it with their kids. It is a legacy I am proud to pass along.

Do you have practices of gratitude in your family? Join us for this week’s “Raising Happy Kids: Parenting for Gratitude and Optimism” for some more ideas about practices of gratitude and other behaviors of happy people at 8:15 PM, Tuesday, May 2nd at https://www.peaceathomeparenting.com/webinar-registration-form/.