Many parents of kids with learning and attention issues find their children full of energy, enthusiasm and optimism. These are wonderful traits.
But there’s a downside, too: These kids may not always know how to keep their excitement and energy in check. Taken to an extreme, these qualities can become annoying to other kids and adults. By understanding what’s happening when your child goes too far, you can help him learn to control his responses better.
Here are three behaviors that can tip you off that your child may need your help to learn how to stay in control:
He gets overexcited. A trip for ice cream is the best thing that’s ever happened! In school, your child can’t wait to be called on to let the teacher know he has the right answer. Caught up in the moment, he may start roughhousing during a casual game of tag.
Signs of overexcitement include gushing, monopolizing conversations, interrupting, speaking out of turn and being too physical.
He’s unrealistically optimistic. Your child may have an unrealistic view of his talents and capabilities. For example, he may be completely convinced he’s going to ace a test or hit a home run, even if neither is very likely.
Signs that he may be too optimistic include assuming that he has skills he doesn’t—or even bragging about them. Your child may also fail to prepare for an upcoming test or event because he’s so confident that he’ll do well.
He’s too emotional. Your child may overreact to both good and bad events with emotions that are way too extreme for the situation. For example, if he loses a turn at a board game, he might storm off in anger. Or he might cry when he can’t have a cookie.
All of these behaviors can be caused by an inability to “self-regulate”—or manage emotions and behavior. Many issues may lead to this lack of self-control for different reasons. Here’s how.
- ADHD: Once kids with ADHD get wound up, they can’t put the brakes on or control their impulses. Their inability to slow down also means they don’t notice other people’s reactions to their behavior.
- Executive functioning issues: Switching gears is hard for kids who have executive functioning issues. While high energy and a loud voice might be fine out on the playground, when these kids come inside, they act just the same and they’re too noisy and boisterous. They don’t know how to match their behavior to the situation at hand.
- Sensory processing issues: Kids with sensory processing issues may not know their own strength. As a result, well-meant roughhousing can get out of hand. And when they’re overstimulated by their environment, it may be hard for these kids to shift their focus to how other people might feel.
- Being gifted: Some children with learning and attention issues are also gifted. These kids may go on and on about their latest passion—even after their audience has lost interest. They can also be extremely sensitive and feel things very deeply, which can cause them to have more intense emotional reactions than other kids in the same situation.
You can help your child learn how to stay in control of his behavior. Watch him to see what his triggers are. After you’ve spotted what sets him off, you can prepare him to handle problematic situations by role-playing. Knowing when he’s likely to overreact and having a plan can help him a lot.
You may also want to agree on a secret gesture or word that you can use to alert your child when it’s time to switch gears. And when he’s not able to prevent annoying behavior, try to quietly remove your child from the situation. Later, you can discuss what he can do differently next time. You can also encourage him to come up with his own strategies for staying in control.
Looking for more ways to help your child manage overexcitement? Explore tips to help preschoolers, grade-schoolers and teens and tweens.