Children naturally have energy to spare, but when you need your child to be calm and attentive, excess energy can be disruptive. Whether in a class, social or family setting, an overactive child can distract others while making it difficult to focus. While children diagnosed with hyperactivity disorders often use prescription drug therapy for better behavior, the typical child may need nothing more than gentle reminders and frequent breaks to center and focus to stop overactive and inappropriate behavior.
When a child is engaged in a stimulating situation, being overactive comes naturally. Playing loud games, participating in a loud discussion or playing with peers can all be triggers for overactive behavior. When you want to calm an overactive child, redirect her attention to a calmer activity. This may mean an individual, quiet activity that can help her direct her effort and attention on something that requires focus and concentration, enabling her to funnel that energy toward something more constructive and appropriate.
Sometimes an overactive child needs nothing more than to recognize his behavior and take a moment to stop and think. Breathing exercises are especially appropriate for children who are too stimulated by a task or action. Breathing deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth for 10 or 20 seconds can help a child gain control over his actions and reactions, while providing a much needed break for his caretaker or teacher.
Taking a Break
When a naturally energetic child is asked to stay still and quiet for a too-long period of time, outbursts are normal and expected. An overactive child needs time to express her emotions and expend energy, so expecting perfect behavior without an outlet is unrealistic. Instead, introduce breaks into your schedule, where your overactive child has time to go outside, get a snack and be loud for five to 10 minutes. When the break is over, you'll be rewarded with a more focused and calm child.
An overactive child needs firm and sensible boundaries so that he knows what is expected of him. When you allow a child to act out and be loud one moment, then scold him for the very same behavior another time, it's confusing and upsetting. Instead, talk about appropriate behavior and expectations. Indicate certain areas where more energetic behavior is acceptable, such as outdoors versus indoors. This allows your overactive child to understand what's expected and be accountable for his own behavior.
- "Teaching Expertise"; 11 Ways to Calm Hyperactive Children; Maggie Dent; Sept. 2005
- MH Matters; Calming Tips for Hyperactive Children; Jeannine Virtue; Feb. 2009
- "Calm Your Hyperactive Child"; Sabina Dosani; 2008