Can an explosive child learn to self-regulate?



The life of a young child can be wonderful but also stressful and unpredictable. All children are capable of disconcerting behaviors and can take different forms: collapses, explosions of emotions, tantrums, hitting, screaming … Although there may also be behaviors that are more difficult to detect but equally important: sadness, isolation, the tendency to repress feelings, etc.

The job of adults with children in their lives is to care for them, nurture their ability to manage their emotional responses in a healthy way, so that they are able to adapt to the environment. Children do not know how to stay calm and do not have the ability to respond well to disappointments or lack of sleep… They do not have enough words to describe what they want or to explain what they feel. Frustration makes them vulnerable and they create a cannon to show their feelings: they become explosive children. But behind all that explosiveness there is always a child who needs to express his emotions and learn to regulate himself.

Self-regulation in explosive children

Self-regulation is the ability to manage feelings so that they do not interfere with life relationships on a day-to-day basis. This could involve being able to calm down in upsetting or frustrating situations when big feelings come into play. Self-regulation is not about not feeling or avoiding feelings, far from it. Blocking feelings can cause as much emotional problems as any outburst.

There is nothing wrong with feeling the great emotional ones. All feelings are valid and children feel what they feel and must accept it as well as acknowledge it. What is most important is learning how to manage those feelings. The key is to raise children to be able to recognize and express what they feel, without causing an emotional breakdown of any kind.

Emotional explosions or opportunities for improvement

Each emotional explosion is an opportunity to steer them in a different direction and to strengthen the skills they need to name and manage their emotions in a way that works for them, without the seismic consequences that can happen when children are unable to regulate their emotions.

Just because children have emotional outbursts does not mean that they are parenting badly or that the children are bad. Children are never bad. They may have tantrums or inappropriate behavior, but before judging or punishing them, it is best to focus on that emotion to find out what their needs are. Parenting is not a straight path; you will find ups, downs and sharp bends. But in every moment of crisis it is an opportunity to teach them the right way with love and respect.

How Self-Regulation Develops in Temperamental Children

Self-regulation can be learned by all children, but always gradually. With a lot of support from parents or adult references who are dedicated and wonderful. By modelling behavior and training good behavior, children will feel safe to explore and experience their own responses.

The part of the brain that is heavily involved in regulating great emotions and considering the consequences is the part of the prefrontal cortex.

You can see signs of emotional self-regulation in babies, for example when they suck their thumb to calm their emotions. When children are two years old, most children are able to wait a little while to get something they want or to hear when spoken to. As children get older they experiment more with self-regulation and are able to learn about the gap between the emotions you intend and the responses.