Monday 10 December 2018

Dear David Coleman: There is no reasoning with him with my son. What can we do when he has a meltdown?

Photo posed
Photo posed

Question: Our six-year-old son often has outbursts where there is no reasoning or talking to him. The problem, or outbursts, only seem to occur when I'm around. He growls and lashes out. When I try to talk to him later about behaviour that wasn't acceptable, he covers his ears and gets upset and says he doesn't want to listen. Nothing seems to work. What should we do? /b>

David replies: It is easy for children to spiral into rage where there is, literally, no talking to them, because their adrenalin levels have become so elevated that they can't think, or even behave, rationally.

At those, hopefully infrequent, moments, we just need to make sure they are safe and have time to calm down.

Helping them to avoid those explosions may require a lot of warmth and empathy about the frustrations and distresses of their day-to-day lives.

We do need to be able to anticipate when they are struggling and distract them, or give a helping hand, or remove the source of rising frustration.

I'm interested in your sense that the problems only occur in his interactions with you. I wonder what if anything is different about your approaches to, or responses to, him? Your own feelings may be influencing how you deal with him in the lead up to, or aftermath of, these outbursts.

A small shift in your approach may allow you to feel calm and authoritative enough to focus on pre-empting the outbursts and helping him to avoid them. Prevention is definitely better than trying to "cure" them.

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