Parenting the Explosive Kid
One February, I got a phone call from my son’s preschool. It started cordial, and the preschool director thanked me for helping at the class Valentine’s Day party, but then she dropped the bomb.
“We’re going to have to ask your son to un-enroll at our school.”
“He’s more than our teachers can handle, and we feel this is what’s best for the teachers and the kids involved.”
Now, this call wasn’t a complete surprise. My kiddo has been having a hard time at school. I had communicated to the school director that we were trying to figure out what was causing our kiddo to be so explosive, but the preschool didn’t feel comfortable working alongside us.
I had an explosive child that got kicked out of preschool.
Once I was off the phone, I was flabbergasted. And even after the shock of it, my brain went into a downward spiral as to what this explosive kid’s future would be.
No one wants to have a kid that causes trouble at school. Even more than that, I knew my son to be such a sweet and kind kid beneath all the TNT.
Do you have an Explosive Kid?
So how do we parent these angelic hellions?
Understand an 'Explosion' is a means of communication.
Yeah, that doesn’t sound fun, does it?
But when young kids don’t have the vocabulary or the focus to communicate what they’re feeling the minefield has been triggered. A recent example in our home was during a two-week trial of a new sport my son asked to try. It came time to go to class, and he went nuclear. There was kicking, screaming, and words every mother ‘wants’ to hear from their kiddo. We were running late, so I didn’t do my best to defuse the situation. But later after all the fight…. much later… he said clear as crystal, ‘my tummy hurt and I was tired.'
Then I remembered he woke us extra early that morning for some reason and had not eaten well.
Often it is hard to tell the difference between disobedience and communicating a feeling with an explosive child. It takes a lot of love and patience to walk through the fire.
Don’t Add Fuel to the Fire
Flashback to fire safety, the more fuel you put on the fire the bigger the flames and damage can be. The same is true with the Explosive Kiddo. They are like lighter fluid and it doesn’t take much to ignite their emotions. Or like we say in our home, it goes from one to 11 in a split second. For any Spinal Tap fans.
So when your kids ignite you can’t allow your own emotions to add to the combustion. You have to be 'the calm' in the room. Or at least speaking and responding as someone who isn’t going to let the flames grow.
Even if your little TNT can’t calm him or herself, they are watching how you respond to the chaos of their emotions. They may not emulate you yet in their brain’s immaturity, but modeling the calm in the chaos will speak louder than anything you say.
Train them to take a deep breath in low-tide moments.
The amount of books on emotional regulation for kids has skyrocketed in the last few years. Mindfulness and emotional regulation have become an increasing problem in young kids, and the research for why could be a whole series of blog posts.
However, teaching emotional regulation is not something that can be done when a fuse is already lit. Because our kids will be unable to hear and process our words.
We have to teach in the low tide moments. At the moment our kids’ minds and bodies are in an agitated state is not the time for a logical discussion.
In our home, when my son is calm and not hyper-focused on something, I will ask him to take a deep breath or blow we pretend birthday candles (Represented by my fingers)
The goal here is to create a response to my words that will help calm my son down.
It is not a technique that works overnight, but it is like putting a new tool in his toolbox when his fuse is lit. Just like any tool, it takes time to learn to use it. When you’re flustered is not the time to pull a brand-new tool out, but to return to those you are accustomed to using. That takes practice.
Give them safe outlets.
I’m not talking about letting them have access to the electrical outlets, but safe spaces and activities to express their anger.
When BIG emotions hijack our kids’ brains there is no rhyme or reason there is just feel and act.
I want to throw this….I throw
I want to kick this….I kick
The bigger the emotion, usually the bigger the physical force needed to calm them down. So our explosive kids need to know what they CAN DO with their big emotions.
My kids can lay on their bed and kick their mattress.
They can punch a pillow.
They can run laps in the backyard
Or do their biggest jumps on the trampoline.
I think my son’s favorite is going to the recycling bin in our pantry and tearing paper and cardboard.
Our explosive kids don’t want to have their emotions ruling them and will find an outlet on their own, which nine times out of ten will end poorly.
So again, we have to teach and have options available so they can channel the passion God has placed in them.
God is not surprised by your child’s actions.
God made them passionate, strong-willed, big feelers for a reason. These kiddos will be world-changers and leaders in their communities one day. If they can survive to adulthood. Our goal as parents is to help get them there without a police escort. That just means we have to work pray and love a little harder.