It’s wonderful to see your child enthusiastic and involved, whether she’s playing volleyball or acting out the plot of a favorite movie for her friends. But if she gets too excited, she can lose control and make people around her uncomfortable.
Kids with certain learning and attention issues, such as ADHD or executive functioning issues, may be especially prone to getting overexcited. And there aren’t any quick and easy methods guaranteed to calm your grade-schooler down when it’s happening. But you can work together to reduce these episodes over time.
You and your child can both use the three R’s—recognize when a situation is triggering overexcitement, read what your child’s cues were, and learn new ways to respond. Below are a few reasons that your grade-schooler may get overexcited and how you can apply the three R’s to help her.
Recognize: Your child is playing video games with friends. She refuses to give up the controller to anyone else and insists she just needs to get to the next level. Her friends want to leave, and she starts screaming at them.
Read possible cues:
- Increased volume: Your child yells at the game and her friends.
- Tense body language: She leans toward the screen, paces and grimaces.
- Decreased awareness of her surroundings: She doesn’t seem to hear your voice or notice that her friends acting restless.
Respond: Pause or turn off the game. This may upset her even more, but she probably won’t be able to pay attention to you while it’s on. Take her to another room so she can calm down away from her friends. If she won’t go, ask them to move to a different room.
Try saying, “I know you’re really into the game. But your friends are feeling left out and bossed around. Can you be calm enough for them to stay?”
Plan for next time: Think about setting ground rules for video games (or whatever seems to trigger your child’s overexcitement). Maybe everyone only gets to spend 20 minutes playing at a time—and only as long as they’re polite.
You can also explain to your child what you notice when she starts getting hyper-focused. Next time, you can point out the signs so she can begin to monitor herself and recognize what they feel and sound like to her.
She’s overly fixated.
Recognize: Your child’s cousins aren’t interested in the game she wants to play. She keeps repeating, “But we have to play kickball!” When they find something else to do, she follows them, screaming that they have to listen to her.
Read possible cues:
- Being “stuck”: Your child has been saying how excited she is about playing kickball with her cousins for days before this family gathering.
- Not listening: She doesn’t hear her cousins’ other suggestions or lack of enthusiasm.
- Not reading social cues: She doesn’t notice the other kids acting annoyed and uncomfortable.
Respond: Guide your child to a quieter space or ask other people to leave the area while she calms down with you. Model taking deep, calming breaths.
Try saying, “I know you’re upset, and we can talk about it when you feel a little calmer.” If she screams, “I’m calm, I want to talk now!” it’s OK to say, “I’m not feeling calm yet. Let’s wait a few minutes.”
Plan for next time: Before a visit, prepare your child. Let her know it’s possible that other kids may not always want to do what she wants. Role-play possible situations so she has an idea of what to say if that happens. You can also help her learn to “check in” to monitor herself and see if she can feel herself escalating. Is her voice louder? Does her body feel tense?
It may take some time for both you and your grade-schooler to learn what works for you. But in the long run, your efforts will help her learn to manage her overexcitement more effectively on her own. You can find more tips on handling everyday challenges, like managing ADHD, in Parenting Coach.