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The Overactive Child

Can a child be too active?

Shivani Goel describes her six-year-old son Arun as a 'human dynamo.' "He just won't sit still for a minute. He's constantly up to some mischief. I find it difficult to take him to restaurants or even other people's houses because he misbehaves. Other children from his class rarely invite him over to their houses. I'm tired and I just don't know what to do."

You can't expect children to be quiet and well behaved at all times. In fact, parents of shy, quiet children often complain that their children are too boring and wished that they would show a bit of life. In general, people expect children to be the life of the house - a little mischievous, quite noisy, full of questions and ideas. But some children cross the line and are wild, destructive and disruptive. They're just not cute any more and people find them a little hard to take. 

Are overactive children 'bad'?

Overactive children just don't fade into the background. They are loud, demanding and difficult to control. They soon discover that when they misbehave, they get noticed and are given attention even if it is of the negative kind. Their bad behaviour enables them to get their own way very often and this only reinforces their tantrums and indiscipline. As a result, hyperactive children often get labeled as 'bad' children and this affects the way they are treated by family, peers and teachers. This is unfortunate because if their excess energy were nurtured and channelized in the right direction, it could be an asset. 

Obnoxious behaviour could be a cry for help. So even if your child makes you tear your hair out in frustration, don't give up on him. You have to work with him to teach him to develop self-control, be considerate to others and to direct his energies towards constructive action.

What to do

  • Take time out from your routine to give your child the attention he craves and to either tell him that you love him or show him by giving him a hug.
  • Get into the habit of making a plan for the day for your child and explaining it to him so that he knows what he's expected to do and when.
  • It is a given that your child is overactive so try to work within this framework. If he misbehaves, first give him a warning. If he pays no heed to you, firmly tell him to do something more constructive. For instance, if he's fiddling with the stereo system in somebody's house, remind him that it's not a play thing and that he should go and play outside with the other children.
  • If you are taking your child for an outing, remind him about the rules of good behaviour and promise him a treat if he behaves. Assign him some tasks like picking out a book in the library or choosing the flavour of ice cream that he would like. If he misbehaves, warn him that he might forfeit his treat and if he continues to behave badly, take him home.
  • Overactive children usually have really short attention spans. Offer your child the opportunity to switch to something else before he becomes bored and decides it's time to liven things up. 
  • Show your child that you have a positive attitude towards him and praise him whenever he's well behaved. Don't let people label him as a brat or a terror.
  • Get your family and friends to help you in your disciplining programme. Speak to his teachers at school to be more patient and positive towards your child.
  • Be prepared to keep your child occupied when you take him out. Carry his favourite toys, colouring books and crayons, etc. and rotate these items from time to time.
  • Try to ensure that your child is not overstimulated and maintain as calm a home environment as possible. 
  • If you can see that your child is becoming restless, give him an errand to run or find something for him to do.
  • Find outlets for his excess energy like tennis coaching or swimming lessons.
  • Try to spend as much time as possible with your child even if you have to forgo some social and extra-curricular activities. 
  • Ask your child about his day and discuss any problems that he may have had.

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