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De-escalating Situations with a Child

De-escalating Situations with a Child

Do you have a child that is constantly “Acting out” or participating in “undesirable behaviors”? What if there is secondary gain involved? How can I tell the difference between if a child needs more attention or if there is something else behind the behavior?

Every interaction we have with our children sends messages about their relationship with us and themselves. When we are giving our children undivided attention and tuned into what they are saying and/or playing with us, we communicate messages like: I like to be around you… I love you just as you are… You are fun, loveable, interesting, capable… You have creative ideas!

When our children behave poorly sometimes those messages we send are quite the opposite: you aren’t good enough, you are frustrating, you don’t make good decisions…

So how do we still convey positive messages of full love and acceptance even when poor behavior choices are taking place?

  1. Validate the emotion
    It typically deescalates children when we are able to convey the message that we understand them and we are for them, not against them. If we notice our child is becoming angry and about to hit we may say, “Billy I notice you are becoming angry, it’s okay to be angry, but when we are angry we don’t hit, I know how hard it is to feel angry…” We are conveying the message here that your feelings matter…I know how it feels…
  2. Don’t repeat or reiterate rules
    Rather acknowledge that they want to break the rule and give an alternative instead. “Billy, I see that you really want to hit right now, you can go outside and hit a ball against the ground to let out your anger.” We are conveying the message here that I am here to help you… Your anger doesn’t scare me…
  3. Help them problem solve
    The goal of parenting is to eventually raise independent children and send them off into the real world equipped to their own problems and thrive. In order to make sure we have resilient children we must teach them to bounce and not break when things get difficult. When we see an emotion get SO big, we can offer to help be on their team to problem solve the situation. “Billy when you choose a way to let out your anger then let’s focus on how to solve the problem to make it a better situation for you!” We are conveying the message that the child has everything they need within them to solve a problem that feels big…

These strategies will not only deescalate a situation but it will also help to create a relationship built from trust, respect, and love.