Dr. Valerie Allen
Licensed School Psychologist ~ Certified Case Manager
Crises Management: Don’t Shout While You’re Out
It never fails. Your usually cooperative, quiet, well-behaved child seems to be overcome when you’re out in public. They cry, they scream, they yell, they grab things, they throw things. They seem to be mysteriously moved to such behavior when in church, the grocery store, the dentist office, the car, or at your in-laws. They overreact but you don’t have to. Good crises management has three goals: 1) stop the immediate behavior, 2) keep it from escalating, and 3) take charge of the situation. Here are some tips to control these outbursts and diminish negative results.
- Audience. Eliminate spectators. Nothing inflames a situation more than having on-lookers. This tends to reinforce the child’s behavior and sets up a power struggle. The child may feel that he or she cannot comply without losing face. You may feel that you can’t compromise without feeling that you have given in. Try not to reprimand children in front of others.
- Whisper. An effective technique is to gauge the level of your voice inversely to that of your child’s. The louder they yell and scream the more controlled and lower your voice should be in response. Whispering is helpful. It’s difficult for the child to hear you when they scream and you whisper. Whispering often gives a momentary pause for each of you.
- Leave. Remove yourself and the child and go to a quiet place. Go into another room, walk outside, get into the car, or sit on a park bench. This change of scene will have a calming effect and give both of you some time to think. It will also eliminate the audience.
- Reaffirm the Rule. Do not enter into a debate with a child; do not engage in plea bargaining; do not allow them to blame others. Stay focused on their behavior: what they did, what they said. Simply state the rule and the consequence. Use a firm and calm tone of voice to explain how you expect the child to behave.
- Choices. Offer your child alternatives. Give them responsibility for their behavior and the outcome. Use simple statements such as: “Here are your choices, ‘you can eat nicely at the table or you can go in your room.’ What do you want to do?”
- Follow up. When the storm has passed have a quiet, private, conversation regarding the incident. Start with a factual review of the circumstances: what you expected, how he or she behaved, and what happened next. Talk about similar future situations and how it can work out better for both of you.
Use positive behavior management techniques. State the rule clearly and simply. Expect your child will obey. Have a specific, fair, firm consequence when misbehavior occurs.
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Dr. Valerie Allen is a child psychologist in private practice. She presents seminars for parents and professionals in the field of child development and has published two children’s books, “Summer School for Smarties” and “Bad Hair, Good Hair, New Friends.” Oh yes, she has also raised six children!