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Disruptive Behavior and Limit Setting by Annette Hernandez, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

By March 10, 2014Blog

Some points to remember when managing disruptive behaviors

1)   Testing Limits is Appropriate AND Healthy for your Child:

In order for your child to grow functionally and emotionally, he/she must learn to test limits. Much of your child’s interpersonal functioning comes from how he/she learns to relate to, have an effect on, and use his or her behavior to change/effect the behavior of others around them.

2)   Your Role as a Parent (Wearing Multiple Hats):

As a parent you serve three major roles in your relationship to your child. These roles are… TEACHER – COACH – LIMITSETTER, in that order.  Why? We TEACH our child through direct instruction and through modeling. We COACH our child to shape behaviors to fit standards consistent with our moral, cultural, and social values. We SET LIMITS when correcting behaviors that stray from those values.

3)   Setting Limits Provide Security:

Limits give kids a sense of security-even when they are rebelling against them. When your child is upset and loses control of his/her behavior, your response to that is critical. Your child looks to you to help him/her develop controls as he/she often finds the loss of control to be quite frightening. In addition, allowing your child to experience his/her frustration with your limit setting increases comfort with negative emotions and conflict within relationships.

4)   Push Your Own Comfort Level When Setting Limits:

Keep in mind that you, your child, and your relationship are strong enough to tolerate anger, disappointment, and frustration. Be prepared for your child’s wrath and possibly the words, “I HATE YOU!!” at some point in your parenting tenure. One of the biggest obstacles to overcoming problematic behaviors in your child is expecting validation from your kid. Needing validation from our children almost always leads to disappointment. Seek validation from being able to change how you parent and being able to correct disruptive or inappropriate behaviors.

5)   Prepare for Extinction Bursts!:

What are those?? When we try new behavior management strategies, our children will try “upping the ante” to let us know a) how unhappy they are that we are trying something different and b) to test how likely we are to stick with the plan. This phenomenon is what behaviorist call “extinction bursts” and this describes the tendency for an undesirable behavior to increase when the expected response to the behavior changes. Consistency as noted in another Brooklyn Letters blog is critical.  Staying the course and working through these bursts while enable you and your child to make long-term gains.

Annette is a licensed clinical psychologist. She has a private practice in Park Slope and works with children with developmental delays and treats children/adolescents suffering from traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and related disorders. She incorporates cognitive-behavioral interventions with diverse clinical populations. She offers individual psychotherapy that focuses on building a child’s existing strengths and developing new ways of coping with difficult situations. She can be reached at: annette@brooklynletters.com or by phone at 917-519-3082.

Rita Crisafi

Author Rita Crisafi

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