“I can’t seem to connect with my child in the midst of his/her behavioral issues… How do I break the communication barrier?”
One question I ask the kids that I work with all the time with is: What do you need? If you ask it in the right way it disarms a child who is hyper-aroused and can bring them into a verbal space where they can tell you what they need (if they are verbal).
The trick here is that when they tell you what they need, you meet that need as quickly and as well as you can. If you look at behavioral issues as a result of an unmet need or an under-developed skill, then it changes the way you look at your child. If it is an unmet need, meet the need as quickly as you can. If it is an underdeveloped skill, then spend time teaching that skill, but do not ever punish a child for not having developed a skill yet.
Remember that your physical presence communicates a lot to your child who’s having a meltdown. Try to get down on his/her physical level. Do not loom over him/her. Pay attention to your breathing and start taking deep breaths. Most of the time, your child’s breathing will begin to match yours within a couple of minutes.
Avoid hyperventilating into a brown paper bag beside your child as this will not be helpful! Try taking deep breaths and you will see – the closer in proximity you are to your child, the better this works. Again, if your child is in your lap, it is even faster. Many times, as a child is wrapping up a huge meltdown, he/she might ask the parent for re-connection. These requests seem unreasonable given the fact that your child just got through hitting and screaming at you, and chances are you are just need to recover a bit.
When your child says, “will you read me Brown Bear?” or “will you watch me build a tower?” the answer needs to be YES.
Your child is doing the best he/she can to repair a rupture. He/she is not capable of saying, “Mom, I am so sorry that I just spent the last 30 minutes screaming at you and hitting you. You must be exhausted. Can I draw you a warm bath, start a cartoon for myself, and pour you a glass of wine? You deserve to relax.”
We wish he could do this, but he can’t. The best he can come up with is “Can you read me Brown Bear maybe seven times with lots of growly noises please?”
– Melody Aguayo, Springible Contributor