Remain Calm. He’s Only a Child

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The author explores strategies to manage misbehaving children in clinical settings.

Therapists often ask me what they should do with kiddos that are just “out of control.”

I ask the therapist, “Do you have your game face on?”

They might ask what that means. Allow me to explain.

Children feel and react immediately to an adult’s fear or uncertainty in their skills, you see. So, when the question about what to do when the child is out of control arise, well, the answer is easy.

We need to remind ourselves that we know what we are doing and own it.

When the child starts pushing buttons and attempting to push boundaries, we should try to show very little emotion and especially not show uncertainty in that situation. It is the job of the child, especially the toddler with limited expressive language, to push and test boundaries.

Can you feel scared, uncertain of what to do next, and feel like things are falling apart? Of course, just so long as you don’t allow it to show to the parent and child.

Parents look to us as “the professionals,” and even though we are not perfect we still need to act the part for the purpose of everyone’s sanity.

Be aware of your stress levels and personal issues as well, because that is when these little feisty toddlers come out to push you to react. Reacting is normal, and it has happened to me as well, but it can cause for some unnecessary lessons that could have been avoided.

Always remember these kiddos are struggling, not able to talk and express themselves as we can. So they do so through crying, hitting and possibly even in a worse way, such a nice chomp of razor sharp teeth on your arm.

The best way to avoid an escalating situation with a two-year-old kiddo (or any age for that matter) is to not allow for their behavior to cause a reaction from you. Just simply feel compassion for them by saying “I’m sorry you are sad. Just show me when you are ready to play,” and then give them space.

Trying to talk the child through it or change their mind may only serve to escalate the behavior. Also, be sure to explain what you are doing to the parent so he or she understands you are not ignoring their child, but rather you are simply giving the child space to see if they might come around.

I once read the children who need extra love and patience show it in the most unloving ways. I try to remember that each day when working with these kiddos.

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About Author

Jasna Cowan, MS, CCC-SLP
Jasna Cowan, MS, CCC-SLP

Jasna Cowan, MS, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual speech-language pathologist and the Director and Founder of Speech Goals Speech Therapy, Inc. She is licensed by the state of California and Certified by the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). Her certifications include a Hanen Certification, and Early Start Denver Method. Cowan has been working as a speech language pathologist for 12 years, having received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from San Francisco State University. In her career, she has gained valuable experience working for the Pacifica School District as an employee and then as a contract consultant for litigious cases. She has also spent a significant portion of her career at the Pine Hill School and the Newton Program for children with high functioning Autism. Her expertise includes speech and language delay and disorders including bilingualism, children with autism spectrum, and articulation and phonological delays and disorders with speech sounds. Her accomplishments include creating the first Mommy and Me sign language class at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. Cowan currently serves as President of Speech ABCs, a non-profit that assists families in need of speech and language services and related services from her main offices in South San Francisco. Additionally, she consults for the Child Care Coordinating Council (4C’s) of San Mateo. Cowan also sits on a multidisciplinary team at Golden Gate Regional Center (GGRC) in San Mateo, CA for whom she also serves as a therapy provider forGGRC’s Early Intervention Speech Pathologist in Spanish and English. As a trusted GGRC service partner, she provides both bilingual assessments and therapy for young children, ages 0-3. In conjunction with this service, she also conducts parent coaching courses on speech and language facilitation at Good Samaritan Resource Center of the Mission District in San Francisco

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