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“Calm the Crazies in Your Emotional Child”

Three tactics that help when your child is bouncing off the walls.

Are you the parent of kids who run up and down the aisles of the grocery store? Do you get the evil eye from the person in front of you at the movie theater, on an airplane, or any other sort of seated public appearance? Are you worried about what the neighbors might think as the high-pitched shrieks of laughter or screams of sibling rivalry bellow from behind your walls?

You are not alone! Last week my 10-year-old daughter and I were hanging out on the pool deck as my son swam laps with his swim team. It was a special day because later that evening we had tickets to watch Shawn Mendes and Charlie Puth perform. I was on edge, anticipating the ADHD-induced sillies to rain on our parade.

My girlfriend and her two younger boys came over to say hello. Her boys were fresh out of the pool and wrapped up in towels to dry off. My daughter walked over to greet them. I was far enough away to not be able to hear what was going on. I observed her running circles around the seven-year-old boys and repeatedly sticking her face inches from theirs. I could tell from their body language that they were less than amused. Engaged in conversation with my girlfriend, this scenario continued for several minutes. Finally, I was able to call her name and redirect her.

When we were back in the car and safely out of the public eye, I asked her what was going on.

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“I’m just so excited about the concert,” she said.

“I know, sweetie. Me, too. But it was obvious from the boys’ body language that they weren’t happy with your behavior.”

“I know, but I didn’t really care.”

I’ll count this as a small win, because a few years ago she would have been oblivious to the body language.

I took a deep breath. I went in knowing this day was going to be a challenge. The concert tickets were a gift for her birthday (nine months ago), so the buildup of excitement was a lot for any child to handle. But my daughter was dealt the ADHD card, so regulating her emotions was a bigger challenge. I reminded myself that parenting my daughter requires me to stay calm and to not sweat the small stuff. I forged ahead, determined to face each moment as it presented itself. We were making memories!

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The concert was much better than I had expected. There were moments of unbridled craziness, but I told myself that yelling at your child is never the answer, a tough task when your daughter is screaming at the top of her lungs and bouncing off hotel beds.

I came home feeling like a champion because I kept my cool, worked with my daughter through the rough patches, and shared an experience with her that, at one time, I didn’t think was possible. This recent “win” gave me the idea of noting what works to calm the crazies when it appears like you fed your child a bowl full of sugar for breakfast.

Get the wiggles out. If my kids are bouncing off the walls at home and it’s too much for me to handle, I give them an activity to get that energy out — like run three laps around the pool or drop and give me 10 burpees.

Redirect them. Going back to my concert example, there are times when you can’t send your kid off to burn up energy. Try refocusing their attention by playing a game like rock-paper-scissors, freeze dance, or charades. It has to be something entertaining enough to capture their attention.

Teach them how to self-calm. This is the most difficult for me to execute, but I’m not giving up because, in the long run, it is the most effective tool to teach our kids to succeed in life. The tactic I have had the most success with is what I call “snake breathing”: Have your child  take a long slow breath in through her nose and then slowly exhale through her mouth while making a hissing sound.

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