What To Do When Your Child Acts Up

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Every parent has been there. Your usually angelic (or at least moderately well behaved) child is suddenly intractable, full of rage, or even engaged in a full-blown temper tantrum. Worse, your usual discipline measures don't even make a dent in the attitude or anger. What to do?

First of all it is important to gain some modicum of control. If you can't get your child under control and you are in a public place then remove yourselves from the public eye. If you are home send your child to their bedroom. If you are somewhere public then try to find some privacy in an empty room, bathroom, or even your car. Sometimes taking control and giving everyone some breathing room will defuse the situation, but if not then ask yourself three key questions:

First, is there a physical cause? Is your child tired or hungry or overstimulated? Children's bodies do not have the same stamina as adults and if they are not given several small meals (or larger meals interspersed with small snacks) and a good night's sleep as well as some down time during the day they simply lose the ability to cope. Some children simply shut down or fall down (asleep) but others act out instead. In addition, children have only the limited experience of their short lives and a day that is too full of emotion or activity can overwhelm them. Sometimes simply too much change or newness can be overwhelming to a child used to a specific routine or environment.

Second, is there anything else going on in your child's life that might be causing stress or is there anything else going on in your life that might be causing stress to your child? Children are creatures of habit. While they enjoy the new they also crave routine. Sometimes they need more time to adjust to routine and sometimes they actually need the ritual of discipline to give them security. The familiar dynamic of discipline is comforting because at least that hasn't changed.