Helping Parents with Out of Control Children

by Dr. Griffith
February 2002

Parents often try their best to control their children’s behavior, but find themselves helpless to do make any changes. They often feel they are at their wits end. Some out of control behavior that a child would display would likely include the following:

  • Yelling, cursing
  • Hitting others including school children or family members
  • Hurting animals
  • Breaking toys

One goal of parenting, is to help a child develop their own ability to regulate their feelings and behavior. A successful child or adult does not need to use these above behaviors to accomplish his or her goals. Indeed, those who achieve their goals have learned to control themselves and use words, language and negotiation to get what they want instead of destructive physical action. Here are the steps I recommend that parents can take to help an out of control child stop the destructive behavior.

Learn to anticipate when your child is about ready to “blow.” Be a good observer and watch for things that might set off behavior problems. Does your child feel insulted? Does something happen to make him feel hurt or belittled? Does he feel overly excited by a television program or a movie? If you really believe there is no precipitating event, I think a psychological evaluation is in order. A mental health professional can assist parents by looking to underlying causes to destructive behavior such as problems with learning or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Young children are suggestible, which means they tend to act out what they see on television, in movies or at home, more than older children. Children exposed to TV programming such as WWE wrestling or violent movies are likely to be excited by this sort of high energy action. Children witnessing parental tension, arguing or fighting, whether it’s physical or emotional fighting, will likely act out at some point. Think about what you can do to prevent your child from being overwhelmed.

Make a no fighting zone in your house. I recommend using a room everybody has access to, like a kitchen. This is a “safe” place, where children go when they have had enough. The parent protects this zone; no behavior is allowed there that promotes tension or stress.

Help your child label his or her feelings. You can make a short list of feeling-vocabulary words and teach your child one word a week. (hurt, angry, sad) Labeling feelings give your child a chance to explore them with you as they are happening.

ArticleAustin Griffith