Supporting a boisterous kid

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
A few years ago, I wrote about a young friend who, for the purposes of this column, I renamed Sam. Sam is now in his last weeks of intermediate school and looking forward to high school next year, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Sam was a youngster who wouldn't slow down. He was on the go all day, got carried away when friends came to play, and was hard to get settled to anything.

While his mother's friends "diagnosed" attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and there was talk of medication, she was unwilling to go down that path if she could avoid it. My non-medical opinion, when asked, was that Sam was just very boisterous.

One of his parents' biggest problems was getting him to do what they asked. Instructions weren't heard or were quickly forgotten. While, like all kids, there was probably an element of naughtiness at times, mostly it was a case of being distracted. Rapid response to stimuli meant any instructions needed to be given to him in a quiet space, with eye contact, and repeated back.

Changes to routine often stirred up the emotions, so a stable set of routines and expectations helped.

When friends came to play it became important to note the signs of change in behaviour as the nervous energy built, so that activities could be changed or the visit ended before Sam became so over-stimulated and boisterous or excessively tired that the remainder of the day became problematic. The number of friends visiting was limited to no more than two at a time.

His parents also found it important to build activities into the day that absorbed his energy but didn't overstimulate - kicking a ball, running in the park, walking rather than driving places. At the end of the day they wound him down by reading with him, giving him tactile activities, such as Lego, a bath and having him help prepare dinner.

As with all children, simple rules that are consistently enforced can help keep things running smoothly. State these rules simply, clearly and in positive terms. Instead of saying "don't run around inside" state clearly the expectation in a more positive way such as "we walk inside".

Very active children may seem to need more basic rules than most, but a warning - the more rules there are, the more they're likely to run up against them and you could be making a rod for your own back. Think about the rules carefully and limit them to those needed. Go for key, bottom-line ones and keep them clear and simple. And remember to catch them being good.

Sam's learnt to recognise when he's beginning to get "super-excited" and has his strategies to calm himself down. He should cope well with high school.

 

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