By Kristin Stanberry
Kids with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) or other learning disabilites (LD) may verbalize angry feelings inappropriately, resorting to swear words, name-calling, and hurtful remarks. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re “bad” kids. Consider what the child may be struggling with:
It’s helpful for parents to view such outbursts as behaviors that can be changed. There are steps you can take to coach your child to express himself appropriately. Understanding your child’s individual challenges and focusing on positive behaviors are the keys.
Like most adults, you probably know what it’s like to break your own unhealthy habits (behaviors). Have you noticed that it’s easier to squelch an unhealthy habit when you substitute it with a healthier alternative that gives you similar satisfaction? For example, someone who wants to quit smoking might find it easier to resist the urge to smoke if he chews sugarless gum instead. This is the essence of behavior management training. And the same technique can work for kids.
The most successful behavior change occurs when the child has input and understands the benefits of learning more positive behaviors. Here are some tips to help your child “buy into” the process:
An important step in changing behavior is figuring out what situations precede your child’s inappropriate behavior. By observing your child just before an outburst and talking with him after the “offense,” you can pick up clues. Ask him who or what he’s angry with - You? Someone else? Homework? Loss of a privilege? Himself? Make sure you intervene as soon as he calms down after the outburst so the feelings are fresh in his mind.
Invent hand signals (such as a “time out” signal) or verbal cues and use them to help your child realize he’s getting wound up. In time, he’ll learn to recognize when he’s getting upset.
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