Some Parenting tips I find helpful with My Intense Child;
- Give Choices but limit them. An intense child can be overwhelmed by too many options but also wants to have some control so give choices but limit them to 2 or 3 at most (start with 2) So rather than “what do you want for a snack” leaving you open to an unacceptable choice or frustration by too many options, give choices of 2 or 3 acceptable choices.. “you can have an apple, a banana or cheese and crackers for snack”
- Time out isn’t just for kids. If you’re boiling over, excuse yourself for a few moments of chill out time. Let your child know that even mom’s and dad’s get frustrated and angry and we know that trying to solve a problem in that state of mind can be futile. Take your time out and model self calming for your child – come back to the situation calm and reasonable (and hopefully your child will be calm and reasonable too by then)
- 10 Minute warning. Lot’s of kids have difficulty adapting to change but intense children often have more difficulty than most. Prepare them in advance when you can reasonably expect difficulty. “We’re going to the park for an hour”. Then let them know something that will happen after that might help them transition “Then we’re heading home for a snack”
- Don’t just say no. Redirection is a valuable tool to keep the intensity level to a dull roar. Rather than “Stop That” when he’s jumping from the couch to the floor, try “Practice your jumping upstairs or outside please”. Dervish will tend to lock down if I just tell him to stop doing something, but if I can redirect him to an alternative that’s just as much fun (serves the same purpose) it often stops the lock down before it starts.
- Allow a child to express his strong emotions. Emotions are always OK, although some behaviours are not. Make the difference clear to your child. It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to hit people.
- Look for and praise the behaviour you want to see. I might be tempted to say “but I never see that behaviour” but that’s not true, I do see it when I’m looking for it. It might be something really small (He picks up The Girl’s toy off the floor and hands it to her) but that’s a big deal, doing something nice without being asked, being considerate, thinking of others etc., Dervish is terminally pessimistic so I watch for a glimmer of hope in him and verbally notice it and praise him for thinking positive.
- Check your expectations. Is it reasonable for your child to behave the way you’re expecting him to? Children can only work with the tools they have, which are limited by age and maturity.