So far in this series, we have talked about how to better understand your child’s perspective and the way they respond to their environment. You may be wondering what you can do to help them during moments of distress. I have mapped out a simple, yet important framework you can begin with!
If you’ll recall from previous blogs, I briefly mentioned a child might be reacting to being hungry, tired, or surprised. This is important to recognize because these feelings are directly correlated to a child’s FOUR BASIC NEEDS – sleep, food, routine, and attention.
If a child doesn’t have their four basic needs met, they may be less likely to appropriately respond to their environment, possibly resulting in negative behavior.
- SLEEP: This may seem quite obvious, but surprisingly it’s something that we overlook when thinking about misbehavior. Many kids are sleep deprived and have an inability to regulate effectively, just as adults do with decreased sleep. As parents, I would encourage you to take a look at your child’s sleep routine and see if it needs to be tweaked in anyway such as an earlier bedtime or less nightly screen time.
- FOOD: “Hangry” is a real thing for adults and kids alike. Take a look at the times your child tends to misbehave and see if it could be correlated around specific meal times. Is it early in the morning before breakfast? Is it right after they get home from school, hours after they’ve eaten lunch? It’s possible that the behavior you are seeing is better explained by hunger than anything else.
- ROUTINE: Children need structure to thrive day in and day out. Without it, they can become irritable and anxious. The lack of predictability can often time be too much to handle, causing them to exhibit poor behavior. I cannot stress enough how maintaining a schedule is key to providing emotional support for your child. This may look like a set bedtime, a set wake time, a set morning routine, or set nightly routine. Something that works great for kids are lists or calendars that have a tentative weekly schedule of activities, such as sports, family dinners, and trips. This helps ease anxieties, as they are able to prepare in advance.
- ATTENTION: You may be familiar with the phrase “attention seeking” in regards to children acting out. There is truth to this phrase because children naturally crave the attention from their parents and caregivers, constantly seeking love and approval. If they feel as though this need is not being met, they may act out to get the attention they are so desperately seeking, positive or not. One way to help with this is to set aside individual time with your child, especially if they have siblings. This could be as simple as getting ice-cream on Friday nights or throwing the football in the yard.
If you feel like your child might fall into this category, I would urge you to stick around to read the next part of this series. I will walk through a powerful communication tool that will help your child understand boundaries, but feel heard and seen at the same time!
Written By: Amberly Ellis