Behavior Issues

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Re: Behavior Issues

Postby NgalaOnline » Fri 07 Dec, 2012 12:55 pm

Hi Emstar

Thank you for your post. You sound like a very engaged, loving and caring mum who is doing her best for her little boy in the midst of a difficult phase. It can be very upsetting to feel that you are not enjoying a season of parenting with your child, and you are doing the right thing by seeking help. Social difficulties or difficulties experienced at school can be very troubling to parents and can cause parents to feel a lot of anxiety about their child's social future. It is important to know though that very often, with more time and development, significant changes and improvements do occur. All children develop at different rates through the different areas of development... whilst your son may be taking some more time to develop social skills it sounds as though he is developing skills very rapidly in other areas such as his academic achievements.

Many children will react aggressively or physically out of control (such as tantrums, or throwing things) because they do not yet have the ability to verbalise their feelings in words and they feel overwhelmed by their strong emotions. Helping your child to recognise his signs that he is getting aggravated or irritated (helping him to recognise physical signs such as getting a tight face, a tense feeling in his tummy, scrunched up hands etc) can be helpful. You can then help your child to name these feelings and to express to you or other people what he is feeling with words rather than aggression. Naming the feelings you see him having help him to understand this (such as "You are feeling angry that it is not your turn. Your hands are rolling up into tight fists. You feel like this is not fair"). You can help him to develop strategies that work for him when he begins to feel aggravated or agitated such as walking away to sit in a cool down spot, or drawing an angry picture. There are many books available through libraries that talk about social skills and also feelings and emotions. It can be helpful to have conversations with your son during non-emotional and non-confrontational times about things like what it feels like to be angry, what it feels like to be sad, and what he can do to help himself when he feels like this. Having conversations and also drawing pictures together about what it is to be a good friend, what a kind friend looks like, and how he can make other people feel happy can be helpful. All of these strategies are not likely to be effective every time. Developing empathy and self control over emotions are difficult developmental tasks that can take a lot of time and patient persistence.

It is helpful to work with your child's teacher and develop strategies for how to handle your boy when he becomes angry. It is helpful to try to short circuit outbursts and take control of situations before they spiral out of control when possible. It might be decided that if your child's teacher sees he is rapidly becoming angry he is removed from the room by the teacher's aide to have a short walk around outside the class room, not as a punishment but as a tool to help him gain control over his emotions before he loses his temper. It is interesting to note that he is better with his sister in his home environment than with his peers. This may indicate that there is something in the school or social environment that is triggering his inability to emotionally cope. Some parents find that their child has difficulty with sensory processing and that different sensory stimulation such as bright lights, crowds, or loud noises can all be triggers that make it difficult for a child to control his emotions as he feels overwhelmed by sensory input. You may find it helpful to note the environment that his meltdowns occur in and note if there are any reoccurring sensory triggers. If you do note this it is wise to seek help with an Occupational Therapist.

Schools often have resource staff that can be helpful in these situations. It may also be helpful to have your child medically assessed by a paediatrician to see if there are any indicators that there are developmental concerns. Occupational Therapists are good resources for helping with things like emotional coaching, listening skills and social skills training - you may like to investigate having an assessment with a private or public paediatric occupational therapist. If there are some understanding and friendly mums in your school or social circle it could also be very helpful to have a quiet chat and explain that your son is having some social difficulties at the moment and that you are trying hard to help him with these. You might like to ask for the opportunity to have some playdates where you can help your son with his social skills - mothers are often very understanding so long as they know that the mother is trying to solve any aggressive behaviour. Discussing social expectations with your son and how to manage negative situations (in a gentle and low pressure manner) right before the playdate may also help.

Over the internet it is difficult to discuss specific strategies as different tools work differently with individual children. You may like to book a consult with Ngala staff however to look at putting in place some behavioural strategies. A consult can be done via phone or webcam if you are rural. A consult allows you to sit with a Ngala staff member and make an individual plan for specific issues, then receive some phone followup with the same staff member. I hope this information has been helpful. Please ring Ngala helpline if you would like to discuss this situation further or book in for a consult.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
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