Kids. Little balls of energy. They seem to have a switch stuck on go. We don’t mind they have energy, but we would love it if they would just have balance. Some may start to wonder if they have ADHD, but let’s not be so quick to assume. They are just a toddler after all, and toddlers have a natural propensity for being hyper. So let’s try some ideas out before we send them to the doctor to become diagnosed.
Of the magical word which keeps appearing in all our tips, and it does so with good reason. Anything to do with children requires nay demands, consistency. Our children need to know when we ask or tell them to do something we mean it. It helps them to understand cause and effect when it comes to their actions. The more you approach situations the same, the more they are likely to fall in line. So if you haven’t already started establishing consistency, start doing so now, with both discipline and rewards. It will be the best teaching tool you have in your bag.
Structuring falls hand in hand with consistency, but whereas consistency is more about your approach with them directly, structuring is about their day and how they approach it. Now, parents, structuring isn’t about micromanaging their lives. Structuring is about setting up times for key events throughout their day they adhere to so their brains can start linking time to events. Common events to plan out within their day are meal times, nap time, playtime, bath time, and sleep time. By creating a schedule for these events, you are telling them every day it’s time to do them. Oh, they may balk and rebel against structuring in the beginning, but with the practice of consistency, every day will be a little easier than the last.
We mention in structuring scheduling time for play. Now we elaborate. We know as adults the benefit of exercise. The more active we are throughout the day, the more tired we are at night. Children may seem to have an endless supply of energy, but it’s not true. They merely need more activity with their structured lives. And as parents, it falls on us to make sure they are getting plenty. Take them to the park, have them help with chores, dance with them. Whatever your flavor as a parent for what their activity looks like, just make sure they are getting plenty of it and in healthy ways. We do encourage some of it to be some type of social interaction because they are learning how to interact with others and express themselves, and we don’t want to deny them the ability to learn. A good rule of thumb for activity amount is at least two hours, and more if your day allows for it. It will help them with our next tip: relaxation.
We are trying to wear them out with activities promoting their exuberant energy, yet equally important is scheduling downtime throughout their day. It’s healthy to be active, but it can be overdone if we don’t carefully monitor it. Work, sports, and schools all know the need for breaks, and we should follow their examples by bringing them in and at least having them sit down and relax if not nap. We can also combine relaxation time with meal times to help reinforce both ideas. Maybe for dinner time, we go for the trifecta and throw in bath time. Every idea supports each other, flowing seamlessly, making life easier for you, and reinforcing their schedule for them. And though eating and bath time are important activities, they set the tone for relaxation, helping in the process of controlling their hyperactivity.
Shaping is a new one, but it has a lot of value in helping raise a child, especially hyperactive ones and misbehaving ones. Shaping is all about linking a reward to action, kind of similar to training an animal. Using shaping can be “If you lay in your bed for 30 minutes, we will go to the park later today,” or “if you sit on the couch for 15 minutes without talking, I will serve dessert after dinner.” The purpose of using shaping is not only linking reward to action but also to teach discipline. We start with maybe five minutes, and every time we use it, we may add another minute or two, progressively making it longer as time goes on. As powerful a tool as it is, however, use shaping smartly. We don’t want them to link every action to a reward. Later in life, it can create a sense of entitlement, which we don’t want to do. We encourage using it only for a couple of activities, and as they become better with discipline in those areas, slowly ween them off the reward, so they’re left with a skill learned and no reliance upon a reward.
Consult Their Doctor
If we’ve tried everything here and have been practicing these tips for weeks now and they are still as hyperactive as before you started, then I suggest consulting their physician. It could turn out to be ADHD or some other underlying cause that needs to be addressed. ADHD isn’t a bad diagnosis, however, so if it’s something you have reservations about, you needn’t be worried. ADHD is a very manageable disorder with some patience and tools. Their doctor won’t necessarily start them out on medication, choosing instead to try some coping methods and tools first, which cater to the child specifically. What’s good, however, is no matter what their doctor recommends, these tips you have been working so hard with them on won’t be for naught. You will still have taught them valuable tools for when their diagnosis is managed. They will be lessons they will carry with them for a long time because you chose now to incorporate them into the child’s’ life. So pat yourself on the back for a job well done!