Many parents have asked me for tricks to calm down a hyper child. I don’t have any tricks, but I've got five specific ideas that I think are going to help. The first tip is not going to surprise you at all. You get to be the example of calm and peaceful and centered and mindful. Is that too much pressure? What you do speaks so much louder than what you say. Find ways to show up as that calm parent. I am sure you have noticed that when our kids get a little out of control sometimes that tips us over also. Most of the comments I get on my YouTube channel ask how do I stay calm when my kids are out of control? I will put a link down below to one of the videos in case you want to check it out or any others on the channel.
Let's get practical about what we can do to calm a hyper child. Don't insist, rather, invite. There is a little difference. Feel the energy when you invite instead of insist. “Hey, calm down. You need to calm down right now,” is not received very well. Take a more inviting kind of an approach. “I'm going to give you an opportunity to calm down a little bit.” Now, that might not seem significant, but it changes the energy. And then you are going to back off enough to give them a little bit of time.
I have a colleague who shared an example from his own son who was freaking out in the car. My colleague turned around before he even started the car. And he said to his son, “Aaron, how long do you need?” Meaning, how long do you need for this little hyperactive fit to continue? And it was so interesting the response that he got because his son was actually listening though he wasn’t sure. He paused for a minute while his son responded, “About, about two minutes.” “Two minutes. Okay.” Can you hang on for two minutes while your kid kind of works through it? And it didn't take Aaron two minutes. He was able to get through it a lot more quickly. Invite rather than insist. And then back off and give a little bit of space and time for them to respond to it.
Let's go a whole different direction for a minute. What kind of environment have you set up? Think of the environment, your home, your classroom, wherever it is that you want the kids to be calm. Is it conducive to calm? This might have something to do with the physical setup of the home. As you look at your environment, does it suggest calming or is it a little chaotic or cluttered? The environment has a lot to do with what triggers our kids. What about music? Now, there are a lot of different kinds of music. We have this magic little speaker in our house that goes by the name Alexa. I think there's other names too. But we can just talk to this speaker and say play some calming music. And somehow, Alexa figures out how to do that. You might have a playlist that consists of the kinds of music that tend to calm the environment. Other kinds of music are going to hype it up. Pay attention to that because children are very susceptible to the environment. In fact, do a little experiment. Just try playing some calming music in the background and see what happens. It might reveal some things that would be very useful. Kids are very suggestible and they are coachable. We can teach our children to calm themselves.
I suggest that you take time every day, at least once a day, maybe multiple times where you practice quiet time. A lot of parents do this naturally because they need some quiet time themselves. It might be around nap time. It might be at just some random time that you choose where you announce quiet time and you practice it with the kids. What is appropriate to do during quiet time? Maybe this is when we read books or work quietly on a puzzle or color a picture or take a nap. All of these things would be appropriate for quiet time. Having a designated quiet time helps to cue in that child's mind to shift gears from bouncing off the walls. This quiet time tells them you are doing something different. One of the things that might help with this is to have some visual cues that it's quiet time. I know one mother I worked with had a plate hanging on the refrigerator. It was a paper plate that she had colored green on one side. And red on the other. And she simply would rotate that plate and show either the green side or the red side depending on what time it was. Green means go, you are free to play and interact and do whatever it is that you normally do. Red means stop, the kids picked up on this very quickly. Stop running around, stop doing what I normally do and settle into quiet time. Visual cues help.
Now, a few words about screen time. We live in the information age. We get a lot of our information through our devices or through the television. Screens tend to be very highly loaded with stimuli that encourage activity, not calming. Understanding just a little bit about developmental psychology helps us with this because our children's brains are in a very formative state. They are very susceptible to the kinds of stimulation that come through screens. Without getting into all of the details about that, there are different modes of brain functioning. The kind of brain functioning that is stimulated by a screen tends to drive levels of activity, and even hyperactivity. I think one of the reasons that we have so much of this in our society now is because of the prevalence of screens. I am going to encourage you as parents to limit the screen time and especially screens that carry very little purpose. I've been in homes before where the television is always on. Not a good idea developmentally. Just turn it off. Turn on the calming music instead or encourage the kids to engage in physical activity. Kids who play physically get better brain development. Sitting, watching a screen, a tablet, the television, the phone, those things are okay in very limited doses, but we've got way too much of it going on for our kids. Pay attention to that and just do a little audit maybe in your own home to see how much screen time is actually happening. That's something that I think could really help with the activity levels.
You're doing a great job as a parent. The fact that you are here, that you are asking questions and looking for answers, my hat goes off to you. We have created resources for you as a conscious parent. Our online program, Parenting Power-Up will take you through the developmental stages of children so you can have the tools and develop the skills that will enable you to stay calm and parent on when your kids are going crazy. You can find information at www.drpauljenkins.com.