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Anger management of your child’s tantrums at home during Covid Pandemic

The Science of a Child’s Tantrums – How to manage before it starts

LeAnne Simpson’s 6-year-old daughter had thrown plenty of tantrums before the pandemic. But after a few weeks of lockdown, minor frustrations that used to lead to short-lived outbursts were now setting off writhing-on-the-floor freakouts.

“First, she’d get so frustrated she couldn’t talk,” Simpson said. “Then she would start screaming, drop to the floor and roll around flailing her arms, often kicking or hitting me if I came close to her.”

Simpson tried every tantrum-defusing strategy she could muster, from playing soft music and offering a snack to squeezing her daughter between couch cushions (a calming technique recommended by an occupational therapist).

But nothing worked except sitting quietly nearby, and occasionally consoling her with words or touch. In the aftermath, Simpson would often ask her daughter what had made her so mad. “She’d always say she didn’t know,” Simpson said.

Meltdowns, common as they are among young children, are a complicated physiological response related to the brain’s threat detection system. Mid-freakout, it’s helpful for parents to understand what’s going on beneath the surface, then to mitigate the “threat” by establishing a sense of safety.

The physiology of a meltdown

According to R. Douglas Fields, a neuroscientist and author of “Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain,” a temper tantrum involves two parts of the brain: the amygdala, which is primarily responsible for processing emotions like fear or anger; and the hypothalamus, which in part controls unconscious functions like heart rate or temperature. Think of the amygdala as the brain’s smoke detector and the hypothalamus as someone deciding whether to put gasoline or water on the fire — with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

When your daughter suddenly starts wailing about sleeping alone in her bed at night, she’s probably not consciously being difficult — her amygdala detected a threat and her hypothalamus caused her to snap. During the stress response, your child might experience a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms and tense muscles (or just an overwhelming urge to punch you). As much as you may want to reason with your writhing child, don’t expect her to listen. For one thing, the stress response can dampen a child’s already-limited capacity for self-control, a function generally associated with the prefrontal cortex, or PFC.

“When you have a fire burning in your house, you don’t want to sit and ponder, you want your body to fire on all cylinders so you can escape,” said Dr. Carol Weitzman, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and co-director of the Autism Spectrum Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.

With a bit of logical self-reflection, adults can hit the brakes on a stress response. “When a driver cuts you off on the highway and your blood begins to boil, it’s your prefrontal cortex that allows you to think, ?Wait a minute, I don’t have to act this way,’” said Dr. Weitzman.

But the prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until adulthood and, according to Dr. Fields, inhibition and impulse control are among the PFC’s most complicated functions. “So when you try to reason with a child, you’re appealing to a part of the brain that isn’t fully functioning.”

Dr. Mary Margaret Gleason, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Virginia and a consultant at Tulane University, likens child meltdowns to a pot of boiling water, with the PFC acting as its lid. “In these moments, the intensity of the feeling overwhelms the child’s ability to organize it, so the feelings get stronger than the lid,” she said.

Fortunately, with your own developed brain, you can help your kid replace the lid on the pot during a meltdown moment by using your prefrontal cortex as a surrogate.

First, manage your own emotions

Before engaging with your upset child, it’s helpful to first regulate your own stress response, said Lisa Dion, a play therapist and founder of the Synergetic Play Therapy Institute in Boulder, Colo.

If your child is safe, leave the room to take a few deep breaths or confide in a partner — whatever you need to deescalate your own frustration. This, according to Katie Rosanbalm, a senior research scientist at the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, allows you to use your own calm state to calm your child.

It’s not completely clear how this works. There are likely several physiological components, but one might involve mirror neurons, brain cells that fire in response to your own and other people’s behaviors. Watching someone run, for instance, seems to activate a similar brain region as when you run yourself.

Mirror neuron research on children is scant, and there’s still a lot to learn. But what scientists do know about this group of brain cells may help parents understand how their reactions affect their kids (and maybe even their newborn babies).

For example, mirror neurons have been found not only in the motor areas of the brain, but also in the areas that deal with emotion. The same part of your brain that lights up when you’re feeling happy may also light up when you observe happiness in others. “So your child may not just do what you’re doing, but feel what you’re feeling,” said Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Next, manage your kid’s reaction

It’s also important to pair your calmness with warm and empathic cues, which can signal to the amygdala that there’s no danger, Dr. Rosanbalm said. “The amygdala stops sending out the alarm, which causes the stress response cascade to cease.”

In the calm-down process, focus more on your actions rather than your words: Your child can mirror your emotions just by looking at your nonverbal communication, like your body posture, vocal tone and facial expressions.

Dr. Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, suggested crouching down and making eye contact with your child during the tantrum, which shows you’re listening and engaged. While some upset kids might like physical touch from a parent, others might find it overwhelming.

You can also encourage your child to self-soothe with other types of calming sensory inputs. Offer her a fidget spinner or Silly Putty, have her push on a wall, or simply encourage her to take some slow, deep breaths. But try to introduce these coping skills before a meltdown hits, so they can manage a tantrum on their own once it happens.

Finally, validate your child’s feelings

As much as you might want to try explaining to your kid why they should calm down, behavior correction rarely works when stress is high.

Once your child’s partially-developed prefrontal cortex is back online, take the opportunity to help her form a story about the meltdown. Shanna Donhauser, a child and family therapist, suggested validating how hard the moment was and repeating back what happened. “Then remind your child that you’re both OK and that you can still be close. You’re still there,” she said.

After exhausting all of the behavioral techniques she knew, Simpson tried focusing on connecting with her daughter during meltdowns instead of trying to change her behavior. Back in the spring, when her daughter had a meltdown about the number of strawberries in her bowl just before she needed to log on to a virtual class meeting, Simpson held her 6-year-old close as she tried to stay calm herself.

It was then that her daughter managed to articulate what was really upsetting her — it wasn’t the fruit, she said; deep down, she was sad she couldn’t hug her teacher. The two shared tears and some snuggles, then moved on with their day.

“My daughter’s tantrums sucked every ounce of life out of me,” Simpson said. “But in the end, we understood each other better and grew closer.”

Ashley Abramson is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn. 

This article reproduced with permission from NAMA (National Anger Management Association) of which Dr Fiore is a Diplomate Member.

Federal Employees need Anger Management Too Sometimes

I recently received a referral from an employee for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS employees often face very stressful situations, depending on their job function and can find learning skills in anger management to be extremely helpful. Homeland security is one of our nations top priorities and therefore can be an equation for stress for those that are in high demand positions. The employee who we are currently seeing for executive coaching will be taught a series of tools from our highly acclaimed client workbook “Anger Management in the Twenty-first Century”. We will focus on improving empathy and emotional intelligence, stress management, assertive communication and managing expectations. Anger management skills improve relationships and sharpen ones ability to have more positive interactions.

Posted with permission from
Ari Novick, Ph.D.
AJ Novick Group – Anger Management

New Beginnings – Dedicated to Cjon Damitri Patterson

At the brink of every New Year we make promises to ourselves and to the ones we love to change. Often we’ve made the same promises every year for the last decade and find ourselves repeating the same negative habits, hurting ourselves and the people we care about.

In some circles the number 8 is thought to represent new beginnings and 2008 is touted as the year of new beginnings.

The thought is hopeful but can people really change?

The answer is yes people can change. I can’t afford to think otherwise. Why because there is so much about me that needs improvement.

To tell you the truth anger management has never been a real problem for me. I did not say I’ve never been angry. I fall under the category of angry people who hold their emotions in and it eats them alive from the inside out. Come to think of it, I guess that is a problem but it’s not the biggest problem I face.

A dear friend of mine passed this weekend. We shared a similar struggle.

He was full of life, talented and hopeful for a new beginning. I guess he got it. He got his new beginning.

In a way I envy him. My new beginning will not come so easy. It will take work and discipline. It will take change.

Can people really change? Yes people can change. I can’t afford to think otherwise.

Dedicated to Cjon Damitri Patterson: The composer of the musical theme for Angry in L.A.

Cjon your spirit and music will live on.

Posted with permission by The Anger Coach from the blog of :
Daybreak Counseling Service

www.daybreakservices.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/angryinla
http://myspace.com/angermanagementeacher
310-995-1202

Cell Phone Use Increases Stress

From The American Institute Of Stress:

“One might think that cell phones would reduce stress by facilitating contacting someone in an emergency or transmitting time urgent information but a recent study suggests otherwise. A sociology professor who followed more than 1300 people found that those who regularly used cell phones or pagers “experienced an increase in psychological distress and a decrease in family satisfaction” compared to those who used these devices less often. No such effects were seen in others who regularly used e-mails.”

Assaulted Teacher But Walks Free

Recent Article in news.com.au
“A SYDNEY school student has avoided a custodial sentence for choking a female teacher in a classroom, after a court found he was deeply remorseful.

The 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had pleaded guilty at Bidura Children’s Court to assaulting the teacher at Randwick Boys High School on June 19 this year.

The 24-year-old woman was treated in hospital for severe swelling and bruising to her neck, chest and hand.

The boy was originally charged with attempted murder but that was later downgraded to assault on a school staff member occasioning actual bodily harm, which carries a maximum seven year custodial sentence.

Magistrate Paul Mulroney today imposed an 18-month suspended control order on the boy on the provision he undertake education and counselling via the juvenile justice system.

Mr Mulroney said he would not impose a custodial sentence due to the remorse shown by the boy.

He said there was “no interest” in the boy being placed in custody.

“It clearly will not provide any lesson. It seems that many of the lessons he needs to learn have already been learnt,” he said.

“There is considerable evidence that (the boy) feels very deep remorse for what he has done.”

Mr Mulroney said the boy had previously been the victim of “excessive physical discipline” from members of his family and at the time of the attack was also under psychological stress because of family issues.

He accepted an expert report that the teacher was “unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time” on a day that the boy was feeling “considerable rage and anger”.

The boy is an active member of the Hillsong Church and is now undertaking distance education and is a realistic chance of attending university, the court was told.

Mr Mulroney, however, ordered the conviction be formally recorded to show the seriousness of the crime, adding that teachers needed protection in their workplace.

An apprehended violence order is also imposed for the same 18-month period, preventing the boy from going near his victim. “

Road Rage Website Bad idea

Want to give an “award” to a good driver?

How about warning a driver that his/her driving is rude or dangerous?

Maybe you just want to flirt with someone you saw on the road.

Perhaps you want to report to someone that something is wrong with their vehicle which is causing a physical hazard.

All this is now possible at www.platewire.com.
It works by your posting their license plate number on the website and then sending one of the above in a message called a “wire.”

We think it is generally a bad idea (although the “award” part might be a good idea) because it is always better to allow the proper authorities to handle bad or dangerous driving issues, rather than taking matters into your own hand. After all, you never know who you’re dealing with out there(so you might be putting yourself in danger).

Also, holding on to your anger until you get to a computer to make a report is not good for you.

Better to ignore dangerous or rude drivers and simply get on with your life. Even if you post something negative about someone, chances are they won’t see themselves as the problem; research shows most aggressive drivers think the other guy is at fault.

Instead, we recommend you relax, listen to music, don’t make eye contact, avoid making hostile or rude gestures toward them, and think rational thoughts.

Click here for free article on other ways to handle road rage and aggressive drivers.

Angry Mom Kills Child

The costs of uncontrolled anger are high, as illustrated in the following tragic story reported in the 11Alive.com website in Atlanta:

“Atlanta police said a Fulton County woman confessed to killing her 2-year-old daughter during a fit of anger.

Investigators said 29-year-old Shandrell Banks told police that she became frustrated when her daughter, Nateyonna, would not follow directions, so she grabbed the toddler and slammed her head against a wall.

The Department of Family and Children’s Services had just given the child back to Banks.

Three DFACS supervisors have resigned and several others have been placed on administrative leave while the incident is being investigated.”

In many such cases, anger management training and perhaps other interventions can help young mothers deal with the stresses of their lives- before it is too late and emotions get out of control.