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David Akiva
David Akiva, BA, MA,
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 167
Experience:  Counselor; Behavioral Consultant
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My child gets very upset when things don't go her way

Resolved Question:

My child gets very upset when things don't go her way with her friends and lashes out at them. I am concerned she will alienate herself and experience social difficulties. How can I help her overcome this behavior?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  David Akiva replied 5 years ago.

Welcome to JustAnswer.

I'm a professional counselor and behavioral-consultant. I'd like to better understand your question.

I've worked as a school board behavior consultant and as a treatment program psychotherapist and program developer for children and teens. I think I might be able to provide a strong practical answer to your question once I have more details. I hope to chat with you about your child getting upset so I can better understand what's happening and help you with the problem.

Would you mind telling more about your daughter's situation? For example, how old is she? What does her negative behavior look like in a typical play by play scenario? What are her most common triggers? Where is she most likely to get upset i.e. mainly at home, mainly at school etc?

She is 8 years old, in 3rd grade. The behavior typically presents if she wants to do something different from what her friends want to do. She will sometimes just retreat, and other times throw a tantrum, and tell them they are mean or wrong. She seems to have difficulty owning her behavior and acknowledging that she might have been wrong, and apologizing. Also, should note, she is an only child.

DuddyH :
In what environment(s) or situation is she most likely to act out in this way?

Thanks for the detailed info so far and I did catch the only child part too and the getting her way theme.

Those are important points.

For example is this mainly happening during shared play activity or would it also tend to happen at school during group learning/sharing activities?

Are teachers noticing this kind of pattern too?

It has occurred during recess at school, and I have seen glimpses of it during playdates. She seems to do fine during learning activities. Her teacher has never expressed concerns about this, but I have a meeting with her tomorrow and will be asking about it. I have never had any concerns brought up about this by her teachers.

DuddyH :
Thank you. Would you mind giving me a clear sense or picture of how she gets into a tantrum typically? Would you mind providing an example or 2 in simple play by play, descriptive terms?

She was very upset recently about a friendship that has dissolved somewhat. I decided to ask the friends mom if she know of anything that happened to cause this, as my daughter couldn't think of anything. The mom explained that her daughter and my daughter had an argument about not wanting to do the same thing at recess with her and another friend. My daughter screamed at both of the other girls and threw her jacket at one of them, and then continued to be mean to the friend she grew apart from over the past couple of months. i know there are two sides to the story, but have a feeling this version is pretty accurate as i've seen my daughter behave similarly during playdates.

My daughter and her friend want to work things out, and we are going to get them together to talk, but i'm concerned that my daughter will only become defensive over the incidents as we discuss them and throw a tantrum, making things worse. i know that she cares for her friend and her other friends very much, but can't seem to help her understand what it means when she treats them poorly.

DuddyH :
Great example. Very clear.

One last question. What is your daughter's academic performance like? Does she do good in school work?

She is a good student, gets good grades and has a lot of respect for her teachers and school administration.

DuddyH :
The first least intrusive one would be to put aside some real quality time with her and read a couple of well written kids books about sharing and cooperation

The more it's really fun active teaching and learning the more she will get that cognitive understanding to guide her behavior. You may also want to read some books that teach age appropriate relaxation response and self calming. It can really, really be fun, and relaxation can be great for sleep too.

I think given how smart she is, the knowledge she gets from learning together from you should generalize with minimal direction and environmental support.

Another great teaching and learning tool is something called Skills-Streaming.

This is a process that actually teaches targeted social skills steps and strategies. Through practicing steps for each "social skill" on cards.

For example, there is a self calming card and active listening card and many skills cards for cooperative interaction with others.

When you see a problem behavior you can actually teach and reinforce the positive replacement behavior. That new "pro-social" skill then self-perpetuates naturally in the child's behavior because it gets great natural results.

You can actually do little skits together after you memorize the 4 or 5 steps for each target social skill, by drawing them out in cartoon etc. Again fun learning makes for strong likelihood of natural generalization.

This is great info, thanks! where would i find more on Skills-Streaming?

DuddyH :
Try this link:

Well it sounds to me like a positive parenting intervention would be really good. I would suggest a 2 step approach.

You can usually find a good copy second hand here - but make sure it includes the book and all the cards:

Okay, thank you. I think this sounds very helpful.

DuddyH :
You're very welcome. The skill streaming book is great. And as a caring and smart parent you will quickly catch on to how fun and creative you can be together in learning a few of the skills. Again fun and lots of love makes the skill generalize fast and for life!

Perfect, thank you!

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