Use the technique of Labeling to indicate to your child that you understand him

Strategy: if you understand something about a child and share it with him in a neutral and friendly manner, the child will gradually come to see that you understand him. Once the child is able to recognize some of his temperamental features, he will gain more self-control.

In Practice:

Suggested Labels



High activity level

You're overexcited

You're too revved up


I know it's hard for you to pay attention

Poor adaptability

Transitions are hard for you

I know it's hard for you to make a change

High intensity

I know you have a loud voice ("engine"), but ...


I know you're not hungry/sleepy right now...

Management of Specific Behaviors

Wild Behavior

Strategy: Use early intervention. Try to identify the point when the child is getting overexcited, then step in and act accordingly. You want to get to the child before he is wild and out of control.

Often this is a very subtle shift and not easy to pick up.

The goal of the intervention is to get the child out of the situation. If you catch the escalation early, distract him to do something else.

Cooling Off: a technique used when the child is about to get wild.

  1. Become calm/neutral
  2. Make eye contact with child
  3. Label: "You are getting too excited"
  4. Warn: Tell him to cool off; if necessary, physically remove him.

You can try special "cooling off" activities to delineate a time for calming down ("switching gears"). These seem to work for Jeremy:

  1. Read a special book
  2. Water play

If a child has gone too far for intervention, remove him from the situation entirely and deal with the tantrum, then allow him to settle down.

Cooling off is not punishment! Therefore, it must be applied with a neutral demeanor.

Blowing Off Steam: another intervention, the opposite of cooling off.

  1. Become calm/neutral
  2. Choose an activity to vent the child's energy
    • park
    • dancing
    • "boxing"

Warning: if you miss the child's transition into wild behavior, you'll probably lose your neutrality as well.


Strategy: With active, distractible children, a sense of timing is very important. You can see the child getting restless, fidgety, losing concentration. This is behavior that can precede "revving up" and that indicates the energy level of the child is starting to build.

Technique: wiggle time (what Sturecki calls "time out")

Dealing with Change

Strategy: Key techniques for dealing with poor adapability are preparation and allowing the child time to get used to a new situation.

It is very important to differentiate between preparing your child for a new situation and overwarning him. Repetition or overexplanation can raise the child's anxiety.

Poorly adaptable children usually do better if they are briefly told about the sequence of events in a planned outing or a trip.

We already use the timer to help Jeremy transition from one activity to another. The timer (Sturecki: "changing clock") gives the child a chance to prepare for a transition within a limited time frame set by something neutral (not the parent).


Unpredictability of appetite and sleep are two of the most bothersome behaviors. Children who are not sleepy at the same time each night will fight tooth and nail over going to bed.

Strategy: Separate bedtime from sleeptime, mealtime from eating time.

Bedtime: child is permitted to have music/stories playing softly. Bedtime is not sleeptime. He may sleep at different times each night, but he will be in bed at the same time each night.

Allowing the child to have books or toys in bed should be treated as a special privilege. You may tell the child that if, now, he gets out of bed, he will no longer have this privilege. But if you find that your child is unable to stay in his room alone even with a night-light and with toys in bed, you may be dealing with fearfulness rather than defiance. See Coping with Fears

Mealtime: you cannot force a child who is not hungry to eat at your regular mealtime, but you can insist that he sit at the table with the family while they eat. ...he can contribute to the family conversation and interaction.

Use your judgement as how how long you should expect your child to sit at the table. Remember your sense of timing: active children in particular will have trouble sitting still for long.

If the child is hungry between meals, he should be given something to eat. This is eating time.

Always remember that while mealtimes are to be decided by you, the child's appetite cannot be controlled.

Not Listening

The temperamental issue is usually distractibility, and these children have trouble concentrating when they are not interested. The wrong way to think about this is, "He's not listening on purpose, because he doesn't want to listen to me." You should think of your distractible child who has trouble paying attention.

Strategy: establish eye contact Make eye contact with your child before you tell him what you want him to do. Make sure he's not "out to lunch." It is extremely important to handle this neutrally. By talking in a angry tone of voice, you are building the reverse of what you want.

  1. Get neutral
  2. Label to yourself: This is my distractible child; he's unable to pay attention

  3. Get the child's attention
  4. Say "I want you to look at me and listen to what I have to say."

Temper Tantrums

Tantrums can be divided into two types:

How do you tell them apart? By recognizing the manipulation involved in one and the temperamental issue involved in the other.

You deal with the two types of tantrums differently.

Once a tantrum starts, it is important to stand back for a few seconds and assess what's going on. Identify the type of tantrum: manipulative or temperamental? Once you've decided, your actions will take one of two approaches (see below).

With either of type of tantrum, when it occurs in a public place, get the child out. You achieve nothing by embarassing the child or yourself.

The Manipulative Tantrum

Strategy: Consistent denial, stand your ground, don't reward the tantrum.

In Practice:

Be firm. Don't give in. Be authoritarian. Ignore outbursts. Don't discuss or negotiate. Be menacing.

It's easier to deal with a manipulative tantrum if you have a consistent approach at all times.

Temperamental Tantrums

Temperamental tantrums tend to be more intense, and there is the feeling that the child is out of control. When you realize that he cannot help it, your attitude may be kinder and more sympathetic.

Strategy: Physical comfort. Apply distraction. If possible, correct/remove the trigger situation.

In practice:

The Brave Companion

Difficult children's fearfulness may manifest itself strongly at bedtime. They can become intertwined with their parents and refuse to sleep in their own beds, or insist their mothers remain in the room with them. A child with this problem will complain of being afraid, or being thirsty, hungry, in need of a special story or song, etc. This can be handled by giving the child a fierce stuffed animal and telling him, "This is your brave bear (or brave dragon or brave lion). He's going to help you not to feel so scared at night when Mommy's not there." The toy should be new and specific, just for this purpose. This helps with sleep fears, telling the child the bear will protect him.

The Difficult Child/8. Managing Temperament (last edited 2010-10-17 19:31:42 by RobertYu)