It is important for parents to stand still and firm on boundaries that it will not trigger anxiety or sudden tantrum response from the kids.
We knew that parenting style is crucial as it affects children development and I had received quite a number of enquiries from parents about dealing with active kids!
Some tips for parenting very active kids!
Exercise and engage in sports
Besides helping kids to use up their extra energy when they exercise, it benefits their health that it helps boosting up the mind, stabilize their mood, and even promote better sleep quality. Picking on different types of activities or sports may help with cognitive and physical development, as well as teaching discipline and teamwork. On the other hand, it provides time for family bonding that everyone is involved in the activities or sports.
This may cultivate trust between parents and kids that they take up little responsibilities, such as taking care of plants or grooming the pets. Some parents might feel or think it is time wasting and hoping to delay or postpone this (educating responsibilities) to a later age. So… when will be the best time/ age to learn about responsibilities? I would say, depends on the development of your kids, and starts from very little things (refer to Home Responsibilities by Age). Kids often get excited to be able to help out too! They feel more involving and truly being a part of the family, finding and increasing their self-value, boosting up their self-esteem level. The bonus of doing so is that: they are able to burn their energy, your house get cleaner, and it reduces the burden of parents too!
Limit screen time
Too much of screen time might lead to negative impacts during developmental stage (refer to How screentime affect children’s health), hence it is recommended that parents cap the timing of them playing with gadgets or watching TV.
We know that everyone likes to pick which they prefer more and if today two choices of “cake” or “vegetables” as choice of dinner, most probably your kid is going to pick “cake” instead of “vegetables”. I would like parents to understand that choices or options might not be available all the time, be firm when you need to. If you had decided for dinner, do not ever provide a choice and reject him, this might increase his anxiety level and result in more active behaviour. However, giving choices and let them pick whichever they want is crucial that it helps them to be more independent in making decisions. Parents play an important role here that choices given have to be appropriate and suit both your needs and the needs of your child. For example, let them make choices on playing sports of activities of the days, and rotate within the family members (today is the turn of daddy and child A be the next, follow by child B or the mom).
Get active kids outdoors and dirty
It’s not that all kids would like to be messy or dirty, but some of them do enjoy the part of being free such as rolling on the grass or playing with paints. These are times that allow their own processing, in order to regulate their emotions and cognitive development. It is understandable that no one likes to clean up the mess. However, considering the importance of this part can create in later life, the involvement of kids during clean-up time can be suggested, or putting them together, e.g. enjoy the freedom of creating the mess but to help cleaning up later on.
Kids need to learn how to flexible in life as things might happen and sometimes things might go a little off-schedule. However, for kids who have extra energy, they require routines, especially when it comes to bedtime, this creates less hassles, less battles, less arguments, as they are not allowed to throw tantrum as it is time to calm down and prepare to sleep afterwards.
Schooling seems to be quite a good way of preparing kids for routine based life. Try imagine this: an overactive kids sitting throughout, listening to teachers teaching for 4 hours. This might never happen to your kids if he or she is having extra energy and being quite restless. They require hands-on activities and rely more on their senses (not only visual, but also the touch, smell, taste and also hearing). Helping your child to find the best way to learn will make them to be more passionate in learning and more able to pay attention. He or she might be able to remember the information longer that it was picked up with something he or she is interested in.
Imaginative play actually helps create more neuropathway in the brain, in another word, to boost up the brain performance and it helps enhance creativity! For example, your child has chosen to be a superhero today, and he is able to help you out at home, pushing the boundaries of his capabilities, who knows that he might realize oh wow, I wasn’t able to do this yesterday, that I am now able to do it! It might increase his self-esteem, drain out his energy at the same time, with lots of acting out and parents will be able to see how he or she perceives things in life.
Sugar has known to play a big part of kids with over active issues. Most of the parents nowadays are aware of this, but you might not know how sugar affects our brain (refer here).
One-on-one time for an active child
Some kids tend to be active to get attention from parents, especially after the joining of new family members (e.g. baby brothers or sisters). As to kids, even reprimands indicate that parents care and showing concern. Therefore, it is important to engage with each of the child in the household, as they might need full attention of parents. It could take only 10 – 15 minutes before sleep or after dinner. This short period of time will definitely make a big changes for your kids and you yourself.
Visual, hands-on reward system
Aha! The rewarding system! Most of the parents told me that they have rewarding system going on at home and I realized that, what is the most common things being used as a reward is – food. We talked about avoiding sugary food above on tip 9 but the use of food rewarding, might cause an issue here, for not able to be consistent. Rewarding system may use to exchange for time spent on phones or gadgets, that they have to work on something to be able to assess to phones or gadgets instead of getting the assess for free. However, for kids who are very active, they need to see the reward visually and more hands-on, hence recommending the use of sticker that they can trace and track their rewards anytime and knowing where they are at the moment.
Last but not least, this is the most important part in dealing with kids, not only active kids, but actually all types of kids. The reason is that, kids tend to push boundaries, which is also known as “test water”, and if parents give in at these points, it actually helps to calm them down as they achieve their “needs” (it’s actually more to a want instead of need) but on the other side, it actually increase their anxiety levels.
Why? Let us elaborate more with a scenario: Mom is in a good mood today because Dad has been promoted, the family went out for dinner, and the kid tends to push boundaries and gotten himself an icecream. He was being fulfilled because the parents is in a very good mood today. He is aware that he can use this method to get things he wants. He tried it again, and the parents gave in, getting him another toy car that he wanted. A week later, they go out for dinner again, the kid tries the same method but it doesn’t seem to work. The parents has a big fight before heading for dinner, so their mood was affected. The kid is being rejected this round. Do you think being rejected and the confused feelings actually induce the anxiety and make the kid to be more stressed up?
Yes, it definitely affects the kid to be more stressed up and the anxiety level will also go up. Therefore, it is important to be consistent in boundaries setting and be firm at some point of time. That the kid will know their limits and what consequences will result from their actions. If parents have a consistent discipline system in effect at home, the kid will not be surprised with the consequences that they might need to bear. This is to educate them about action and consequences, that they will not push boundaries and it definitely make parents’ life easier. Who would able to bear or take risk to bring a kid who throw tantrum, crying and rolling on the floor in public? I doubt that.
So, work on the boundaries and stop making your kids confused! It is important for parents to stand still and firm on boundaries that it will not trigger anxiety or sudden tantrum response from the kids, which later lead on to the hitting and embarrassment experienced by parents.
By: Ms Vernice Si Toh - SOL Psychologist