Children with ADHD, Autism, or various neurological disorders often have frustrating bouts of hyperactivity. Some children have such high energy levels mixed with defiance or impulsivity that they can’t focus properly at school or maintain friendships. I’m convinced that these kids can benefit enormously from medication. (Read my blog, “ADHD and the Maddening Missing Meds.” ) But some children may not require medication, and only need some parental guidance to regain control.
Here are six ways you can help a hyperactive child:
1. Channel the energy. A child with endless amounts of energy, who is bounding up and down the stairs and getting into trouble, is crying out for something to do. Try enrolling your child in a team sport, dance class, or some parents rave about the benefits of martial arts. Martial art classes teach control, discipline, and self-esteem. While at home, get creative and give your child a task. “Katie, can you water the back lawn for me?” So what if she gets rambunctious doing it? She’s accomplishing something useful.
2. Establish distinct indoor/outdoor rules. Sit down as a family and discuss what behavior is acceptable in the house and what behavior isn’t. Break it down in very clear terms. On a cardboard sheet, make two columns: Indoors and Outdoors. Have the kids help list behaviors that fall under each heading. Yelling=Outdoors. Running=Outdoors. Reading=Indoors, etc. If a child uses outdoor behavior inside the house, he has to go outside for a half hour. If darkness prevents this, he has to go to the “chill-out” chair.
3. “Push the wall.” Yul Brenner had a specific technique he would use to combat jitters, anxiety, and restlessness. He would stand facing the wall with one knee bent and the other leg extended behind him (in a straddle position), and “push” the wall with all his might. After five seconds of simultaneously stretching and tensing his muscles as he pushed in this way, the automatic result when he was finished was to feel more relaxed and calm. You can test this technique and teach your child to use it when he feels out of control.
4. Deep Breathing. Teach your child to take three looooong deep breaths through the nose, slowly filling the lungs like balloons. Then just as slowly, let the air escape through the mouth making “wind” sounds. Deep breathing helps harmonize our nervous systems by turning on our parasympathetic nervous system–our “relaxation response.” It feeds oxygen to the brain, having a natural calming effect.
5. Chill-Out Chair. It works wonders for discipline, and you can also use it when a child is obviously losing a sense of control. Send him to the “chill-out” chair for five minutes, with something interesting to read. If he acts up, the reading material is taken away, and five minutes is added to the time. Continue adding five minutes if he refuses to remain quiet. You could start “chill-out time” with deep breathing, using the technique in number four above. This will start the child off a bit more relaxed. If the child sits quietly for his allotted time, he can leave. There are numerous ways to use this method, but just be sure you have your own consistent rules in place to make it work.
6. Family Exercise. The more you employ family exercise in your children’s lives, the better. They will be more able to manage stress, they’ll be healthier, they’ll avoid obesity, and they’ll strengthen their family relationships. (And you will, too!) Exercise is a great way to use up nervous energy. Get out as a family and ride bikes, play ball, roller-skate, or whatever activities you enjoy most.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here.