This fictional story explains how you can use Kids’Skills to help children overcome temper tantrums and other outbursts of anger.
Imagine a seven-year old girl – Lena – who suffers from tantrums. When she becomes upset, for whatever reason, she often responds by becoming aggressive. She shouts, curses, kicks, spits, hits, and throws stuff around. Her outbursts can last a long time and there is not much anyone can do to stop her while the reaction is going on. Lena’s parents have tried many things to get her to stop throwing tantrums but so far to no avail.
One day, Lena’s mother – Nina – takes Lena to see a child counselor – Madeleine – who uses Kids’Skills to help children overcome problems. Let’s assume that Nina has already explained Lena’s problem to Madeleine who is now telling both of them about her approach.
“It’s a kind of a training program for children. To understand how it works I want you to imagine that inside Lena’s brain there is a muscle that is weak and needs to be trained.”
“A muscle in the brain?” says Nina with a baffled look on her face.
“It’s just a figure of speech. For example, if someone is musically talented, you can say that the person has a strong ‘music muscle’ and if a person cannot read you can say that their reading muscle is weak. What about you Lena? Do you have a strong music muscle?”
Lena glances at her mother. “She sings well”, Nina says with a proud look on her face, “She sings in her school’s choir.”
“Sounds indeed like you have a strong music muscle, Lena. But there is another muscle in your brain that is frail that you need to strengthen.”
“What muscle is that?” Lena wants to know.
“It’s the cool-down muscle,” Madelaine says, “A muscle that helps you calm yourself down when your become upset.”
“How can I strengthen my cool-down muscle?” asks Lena.
“There’s only one way to strengthen muscles. You need to exercise it.”
“How can I exercise it?”
“We will work out a way for you to exercise your cool-down muscle. Tell me what can you do – or say to yourself – to calm yourself down when you become upset?”
“I don’t know,” says Lena looking thoughtful.
“Let’s ask your mother what she does to calm herself down when she becomes upset. What do you do Nina to calm yourself down when you get upset?”
“I sometimes breath slowly in and out counting my breaths like this; one… two… three”, Nina explains exhaling out by each count.
“Would that work for you, Lena?” asks Madelaine.
“You can do what your mother does, or you can decide to do something different. I have noticed that children often have very good ideas of how to calm themselves down. For example, one child decided to carry a cuddly toy that she would hug and squeeze whenever she felt that she was becoming upset and another child kept a bag of hot chilli candies in her pocket and put one of them in her mouth if she felt that her anger was taking over. What about you Lena, is there something that you have sometimes done that has helped you calm yourself down?”
“I can stick my hands in my pockets and hum a song.”
“That’s a great idea, Lena. Let’s see you stick your hands in your pockets and hear you hum a song. Can you show us how you do it?”
Lena stands up boldly, sticks her hands in her pockets and starts humming a tune.
“What’s the tune you are humming? Are you just humming something or is it a song you know?”
“It’s called ‘I can dance’.”
“I can dance! That’s brilliant Lena! Do you have a smart phone Lena?”
“Do you mind if we use your smart phone to record a video of you calming yourself down in the way you just showed us?”
“No, I don’t mind.”
Madelaine records on video a short scene where Nina says something to upset Lena and instead of blowing her top, Lena calms herself down by sticking her hands in her pockets and humming the tune ‘I can dance’.
“Brilliant, let’s see how the video turned out”, Madelaine says waving Lena and Nina to join her in watching the video.
“This video will play an important role in your training program” Nina explains to Lena holding her phone in her hand.”
“What shall I do with it?” asks Lena.
“I suggest that you watch this this video every day. Seeing yourself do what you do on the video is a way for you to exercise your skill.”
“Ok”, says Lena.
“I also want to suggest to you that you show the video to other people, your family and friends. Would you be willing to do that?”
Madelaine hands Lena a pen and a sheet of paper and instructs her to write down the names of all the people she will to show the video to. The list includes her father, grandparents, auntie, teacher and three friends.
“There is one more important thing we need to think about”, Madelaine adds looking at Lena, “I suggest you tell your parents, and the people on your list, how you would want them to remind you of your skill if they see you getting upset and they get the feeling that you don’t remember your skill. What do you want them to do or say to remind you in such a situation?”
“They can hum the same tune.”
“That’s a brilliant idea”, says Madelaine, “Why don’t we record another short video of your mom reminding you of your skill. Shall we do that?”
Lena and Nina agrees and Madelaine records a video of Nina reminding Lena of her skill by humming the tune ‘I can dance’ and Lena responding to Nina by sticking her hands in her pockets and starting to hum the same tune.
“So, here’s the plan”, says Madelaine looking at Lena, “You will learn the skill of calming yourself down when you get upset. And to learn that skill you will practice. You will use your method whenever you get a chance, you will watch the video to see yourself do it at least once a day, and in addition, you will show the two video clips to people on your list so that they can support you and help you to remember your skill should you sometimes forget it.”
Both Lena and Nina agree to the plan.
Find out more about Kids’Skills at www.kidsskills.org