The video above stands by itself as an educational piece but if you want more information and ways to USE what is being demonstrated then read this post.
As family counselors we have the good fortune to work with many wonderful families who co-design with us their own successful programs to handle the problems they are having with their children. Featured here in this video are two stars among our clients, Ruby, aged four, and her mother, Cori.
Ruby’s Mom and Dad came to us a year ago and from everything they described – and that we observed — she was indeed one of those bright, sweet yet aggressive and hyper-energetic kids who was proving to be “too much” for her parents to handle at certain times.
Fortunately, Ruby’s parents were smart, loving, good parents who were committed to doing whatever they could to become great with Ruby so they could all feel good and happy again. Their unflagging commitment eventually paid off with them having a workable system they use daily to have their family thrive.
Over the course of the many months it took to create their system they went over several possible strategies with their advisors (including us) and did quite a bit of “research through practical application.” After a while they found the various responses and abilities that felt right and authentic for them to use and that also successfully handled Ruby’s moods, forcefulness and her energy surges.
Now you can see for yourself how this Mom adapted the best advice from her various resources, such as our family counseling and the teachers at her child’s school, to create a system of habitual responses that regularly work with her wonderful daughter. Happiness reigns again in this family – and can in yours as well. Look and listen.
When you watch this video you will notice there are two parts – the first shows the child, Ruby, engaged in her self-soothing exercises that she practices regularly, and the second part shows her Mom’s responses to a real-life escalation of Ruby’s energy and forcefulness that happened while we were filming the first part.
During the self-soothing exercise — which works really, really well for any child who is willing to do it for their own benefit – you will see and hear that the exercise covers multiple senses in order to work most powerfully – audial/vocal, tactile or kinesthetic, visual. Ruby is doing some soft vocalizing (humming and singing) and is listening to her mother’s soothing words of encouragement and praise; the child is using a few key “calm-down” kinesthetic anchor points (fingers touching each other and hands resting gently on knees); she is breathing deeply (which could also include smelling with aromatherapy or Bach flower remedies), and purposefully shuts out external visual stimulation by closing her eyes and focusing on her calm inner self.
We are communicating all of this detail here in order to emphasize that sitting down quietly doesn’t quite cut it for the energetic child (that might work for a staid adult or a quiet child, but not for a “too much” kid.) Engaging as many senses all together is what works in self-soothing for an energetic child.
For Ruby’s self-soothing exercise many elements are at work — the lotus posture and the soft singing and the rhythmic swaying and the back rubbing plus encouragement from her Mom plus closing her eyes to provide a clean break with the previous moment’s over-stimulation and breathing deeply to calmly focus her energy inward and on centering rather than in ever-escalating outward spirals.
The “too much” child has a lot going on energetically – they have monkey minds jumping all over the place, they feel several emotions at once, they often experience physical energy surges or spikes which lead them to behave impulsively and obsessively at times.
Any self-soothing has to engage the energetic child on many levels in order to work – it could be playing an entertaining video game or acting out a role-play of their favorite character or doing a dynamic meditation like Ruby’s.
With a little creativity and a lot of persistence you will co-design with your child what works for them – and you – in terms of appropriate self-soothing, “quieting down” exercises.
During the second part of the video our intrepid Mom displays ALL of the tools that the parent of an overly energetic child needs in their toolkit to have a happy family.
The list includes:
1. Mutual Respect – this Mom is clearly acknowledging her daughter’s wants and needs while simultaneously repeatedly requesting respect for her own needs.
2. Assertiveness – Ruby and her parents have established an excellent and consistent pattern of saying how they feel and asking for what they want to happen and don’t want to have happen.
3. Mutual Benefit – there is a constant negotiation for what would be a workable agreement that is pleasurable to both parent and child, with neither winning against or over the other but rather a win-win outcome with both parties happy. “Everyone feeling good” is the measure of success.
4. Mutual Trust – this family has found several techniques that the child trusts will support her in feeling and acting better – techniques that are not punitive nor do they make Ruby feel bad about herself in any way so she likes to use them. Therefore her parents trust these various techniques to work., knowing that if they all persist in using them (of finding new ones if needed) then things will go as smoothly as possible.
In the video itself we have included slides that make note of the specific skills Cori uses during this energy escalation that ends in Ruby self-soothing, with her Mom’s engaged support.
Watching this always brings a smile to our faces because it is so heartening to know that even kids who have “too much” energy or aggression or impulsiveness can respond so well to being held in this kind of a bowl of support.
P.S. We have also included another video of Ruby on the Young Kids page that shows “jumping” as one of many energy-releasing activities.
Here is what you can do at home to get started using these techniques:
- Have your child watch Ruby doing her self-soothing exercise and find a way to adapt that to your and your child’s preferences (the first 10 times you may have to do it with him or her)
- Go over the techniques with your spouse and/or caretakers to choose a plan of which mutual respect/assertiveness/mutual benefit methods you would like to implement as a united front.
- Use touch/holding and firm repetitions of “look into my eyes!” and “take a deep breath!” to encourage your child to get in control of their energy and attention.
Let us know what worked for you in terms of using what is demonstrated in this video? Was it as inspiring to you as it was to us? What else do you want to know about these techniques?
Has your family found a unique self-soothing or calming method that works for your “too much energy” child? Sharing your story and techniques could make a huge difference for another family with a child like yours.
Dr. Lonnie Green, M.Ed., PhD