When Kids Lash Out

by Staff
I think the biggest conundrum for parents is when kids lash out/ yell at parents or when they completely shut down. Parents can get super frustrated and think the kids just trying to be “bad” or oppositional. But really most of the time kids just want to be heard. 
They want their parents to see the small signs before it comes to lashing out or shutting down.  When their parents can see the beginning of big emotions, the children feel safe, and feelings of safety insulate kids from those big, difficult emotions. I’ve noticed that parents can get too caught up in rules and tend to forget that their children have complex feelings too, even at a young age.

One piece of advice I always tell parents, is that it’s okay to not know what to do and to ask for help.  And then when someone gives you guidance, weigh that advice against how your child might respond, and if it aligns with your values then try it out (not all advice is good advice, but you won’t get the good stuff if you don’t ask!)

A few more tips are:
1. talk to your child, it’s okay to ask them what’s wrong or to ask them to open up to you.

2. Help them identify their big emotion: “I understand that you must feel really disappointed right now. Let’s take a few deep breaths and remind ourselves that we can think of other things to do since we can’t do that thing you wanted.”

3. Try to not overreact, take a second to gather yourself if you need to.  Identify the powerless and frustrated feelings you’re having as a result of your child’s behavior.

4. Figure out what motivates your child and together create a goal or a plan to help with the behavior.   When kids are invested in the outcome and given choices ahead of time they are redirected more easily.  That doesn’t mean they’ll just flip from angry to compliant, it means both of you will struggle with the transition easier than usual, and eventually the struggle should dissipate.