Being a kid can be exhausting. You get roused from sleep early in the morning to go to school, where you're surrounded by loud peers and other distractions all day. Teachers want you to remember so many things at the same time – sit still, raise your hand before talking, spell those words correctly, decipher that math problem.
Navigating the social aspects of school is another major and exhausting challenge for a lot of kids, especially those who struggle with behavioral issues. Some have impulse control problems that make their peers avoid them, or they lack the communication skills necessary to direct the play in the way they want. The child melting down at the end of the day on a frequent basis may be a sign that your child is having to work harder than their peers to hold it all together during the day. If talking to and playing with other kids doesn't come naturally, it's hard work. And because most kids are eager to please the adults in their lives, a child might spend his school day trying really hard to do what his teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, baby-sitters and friends' parents ask of him.
So your child walks out the door in the morning, shoulders all that stress and hard work all day, then comes home and melts down. Sound familiar? A lot of parents notice that their kids seem to have the majority of their tantrums at home. It's incredibly frustrating, but it's also an indication of how safe your child feels with you. He has to hold himself together all day because the other adults and kids around him don't love and accept him unconditionally the way you do. At home, he can fall apart without making you love him any less.
This pattern is normal, but that doesn't mean you have to accept your child's bad behavior at home. There are a few things you can try to help him keep his emotions and behavior in check.
Give him a breather. Your child is probably at his most emotional and tired right after he gets home. Pushing him right into chores and homework might push him right past his breaking point. Allow him 30 minutes of free time right when he gets home to play, rest or just run around.
Pay attention. Sometimes a child will act out at home because he doesn't know how to get a parent's attention otherwise. Set aside a time each day to give him your full, undivided focus.
Lay out clear expectations and consequences. Just because a child's behavioral challenges are understandable doesn't mean his parents have to accept them. Pick a few of the behaviors that you don't like, then tell him clearly what you want him to do and what will happen if he doesn't. If he always makes a mess after school, you might tell him that he has until 5 p.m. to clean up his toys, and that he'll lose evening TV privileges if that doesn't happen. Give a warning at 4:50 and 4:55, then enforce the consequence if necessary.
If your child’s meltdowns seem more extreme than their peers, it may be time to consider a program like Brain Balance. On average, Parents saw a 43% improvement, on average, in their child’s behavior following the completion of the Brain Balance program*. Start with our Online Assessment to find out if Brain Balance is right for your child. Brain Balance has worked with over 25,000 children and their families and we know we can help yours, too.
*Results based on a parent evaluation form filled out pre and post-program where the parents ranked a set of statements about their child, on a scale from 0-10 (0=not observed/does not apply and 10=frequently observed). Statement: Child is argumentative, oppositional or uncooperative at home – 43% improvement for median student (2015-2018 data for 4,284 students where parents reported this issue).