knowing & growing

by tasleem iftikhar

I am doing work with children who are using drugs living on streets having history of sexual, physical,emotional & verbal abuse. I want to know how to handle a child who shows anger out burst most of the time pinching other children and arguing & wanting immediate gratification as well as not accepting his mistakes.

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Jan 01, 2014
Acting out...
by: Don Carter


If you are working with kids who have been emotionally traumatized then the only way they have to express their trauma is to act it out through their behavior.

Kids with these emotional wounds need to have a therapist who is trained in play therapy. Kids do not have the ability to talk things out yet which is why they do not "get it" even when we explain why something is wrong.

No matter what age we are, we all learn the same way, through intensity and repetition. Being traumatized is intense, when it happens over and over it is repetitious.

To heal, these kids need an environment with:

1. Structure: Healthy boundaries, rules, expectations and behavioral routines

2. Stimulation: Healthy, fun activities that allow for learning and laughter. Those two things together are intensely stimulating in a positive way and so they are the best ways to learn - anger and punishment is also intensely stimulating but in a negative way. And to children, negative stimulation is better than no stimulation.

3. Nurturing: Time, Attention, Affection, and Direction (guidance and discipline)These are the general developmental dependency needs of children. If they exist in healthy doses in the world of a child the child will thrive and flourish. If they are not there the child will act out in ways to express the need:

a. Unmet need for Attention = Attention seeking behavior

b. Unmet need for Affection = Approval Seeking behavior

c. Unmet need for Discipline = Discipline Seeking behavior

d. Unmet need for Direction = Guidance seeking behavior (lots of questions!)

e. Unmet need for time = Any and All of the above! To a child whatever a caretaker gives their time to is what they love - so time = love and a child will act out in any way that demands your time even if misbehavior is the only way that works.

Here is more on the three emotional hungers and what happens later in life when they consistently go unmet.

Here is an article that goes into depth of the dependency needs of children.

Thanks for the question!

Hope this helps,
Don Carter

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