My friend lives in a world by himself.
Sometimes, he lets me join him.
Sometimes, he doesn’t.

My friend is like the sun.
Sometimes, he shines.
Sometimes, he disappears to a place I can’t see.

My friend is like a puppy dog.
Sometimes, he listens to what I say.
Sometimes, he just doesn’t understand.

My friend is like Abraham Lincoln.
Sometimes, people are amazed by his honesty.
Sometimes, they are angered by it.

My friend is like an Encyclopedia.
Sometimes, all his knowledge is very impressive.
Sometimes, I get bored and want to put him aside.

My friend lives in a world by himself.
Sometimes, I invite him to join my world.
Sometimes, he joins for awhile.

Emotional Control

Many students have great difficulty with Emotional Control. They can have angry loud temper tantrums, fits of sorrowful weeping and sobbing, destructive lashing out, and an array of other behaviors. How do you help them get control?

The thing to do is teach them some skills….and then- THIS IS KEY!!!! Practice those skills over and over. You can’t apply a skill by being aware of it. It needs to be practiced and honed and “shovel ready” to be able to use in the moment.

That means- YES- the traditional mechanisms are good. But they must be practiced and talked about on a regular basis. Note: if you are a clinician- practice in your session and then send home follow-up.

  1. Count to ten- Practice, practice, practice- SLOW EASY BREATHY COUNTING- When? every night- or each morning- or right before an event that might be stressful-anytime!!! Also, get visual- Find a colorful, creative counting book and use that. There are zillions of them.

  2. Take deep breaths - Practice often. The long deep breathing app in the My Favorite Applications section is quite popular among my students.

  3. Think positive thoughts- This is easy. Create a book. Make a photo album of big smiles and awesome times. Create positive chants and chant them every day.

  4. Squeeze a favorite toy. Do the squeeze every day and more than once a day. Give the toy a special spot so your child knows where to find it. Practice “imaginary” squeezes for the times the toy is not available.

I have developed a sort of step-by-step plan that I use with kids who are late elementary school age and older: Emotional Control Handout It incorporates some of the same traditional strategies for temper control, as well as “think about it” instructions and an understanding of the need to sometimes apologize. Judith Coucouvanis was the inspiration for this particular set of instructions (as well as a lot of other ideas). Please check out her book in the book section of Learning to Be Social, especially if you are a therapist.

Once you feel like your child has practiced and knows what to do, start reinforcing him/her for the times that he/she applies the skills in the moment. I have created a positive paper for you to do this! On the paper are the deep breathing and positive thoughts strategies, plus there are some lines for you to add your own. Below that are 7 blanks. Beside each of those, write down (briefly- just a memory jogger) the incident in which your child applied his skills instead of losing his temper. When it is complete, take him out for a big reinforcer, whatever it may be….something a little bigger than usual for sure. Then start again!
Positive Paper

There are several books I use with students who have issues with emotional control. I often read the book with them and use this exercise both as a listening activity (see the Listening section under My Favorite Therapies) and a way to teach them. One of my favorite books is called The Red Beast. It tells of the Red Beast that is in all of us. Sometimes, when something goes wrong, it wakes up. Our job is to tame the red beast. I have found that this book allows a child to separate him/herself from the breakdown, making it an easier subject to approach and discuss. But this is only one piece of the puzzle and doesn’t work for everyone. In the book section, I have listed several books that I frequently use when emotional control is an overriding issue.