It’s hard not to get angry or upset when your child is acting defiant, manic, or aggressive. We’re conditioned to expect that kids listen to their parents, and when they don’t, won’t, or can’t, we may erupt in frustration. For many kids with special needs that influence their behavior, however, that outburst of anger can make things far, far worse. If strong emotions push your child over the edge instead of reeling him back in, you’ll need to turn down the emotional volume to bring your child back in tune.
Start with your tone of voice. It’s important, sometimes, to raise your voice to get your child’s attention and let her know you mean business. But make sure you’re not loading those loud words with loud and hurtful emotions. It sounds terrible to say this, but think in terms of training a puppy: The sharp but nonjudgmental voice you’d use to say “Sit,” “Stay,” or “Heel” can be exactly the right one to use when you tell your child to “Stop,” “Come here,” or “Calm down.” Keep your anger out of it.
And out of your body language, too. Sometimes, even when your voice sounds patient, frustrated movements can give you away. Look out for crossed arms, stamped feet, banging a fist against the wall, facial contortions that make it clear that, while you may be clipping your speech, inside you’re boiling. Unfortunately, those gestures — even for kids who can’t always read body language — send out shock waves that your child may respond to in a negative way.
If you’re feeling so angry and hurt that you can’t turn down the emotional volume, give yourself a short time-out. Breathe in and out slowly. Count the seconds of your inhaling and exhaling. Walk away for a moment if you have to. Close your eyes. Get a grip. You won’t be able to calm your child if you can’t calm yourself.