This information is aimed at very young children up to the age of
about five or six. Excitable, overactive and difficult to calm children
are in the news at the moment. Everyone seems to know about ADHD
(Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and very often when a child
is over excitable and difficult to settle, parents and teachers wonder
ADHD is not often diagnosed in children under the age of four or five
because it is difficult to separate out normal over excitable behaviour
from ADHD. There is also the question of whether drugs such as Ritalin
should be given to such young children.
Having said that, it is quite normal for young children to be
unsettled, over-excitable and difficult to calm at times. If you have
this problem you may like to read other leaflets in this series as well
as this. I have listed some at the bottom of this article.
Young children are full of energy. Their bodies are growing, they
are discovering new and exciting things in the world and having to
struggle with new situations and events without the sophisticated skills
and understanding of the world that adults have. We have all seen how
excited young children become at birthday parties, or how difficult it
is for them to contain their excitement and pleasure on Christmas day.
Often this is wonderful to experience - sometimes though, their bursts
of energy and excitability can be exhausting - particularly if you are
tired or just not in the mood for it at that time.
Children are driven much more by their feelings than adults.
They have not developed the social skills and awareness adults have. It
takes a long time to build up these skills in your children and
teaching them these skills will help them develop better self-control
and social skills in their later life. Being a parent is hard work at
times, but do look around at other parents with young children who will
be experiencing similar difficulties at times too. Parents are very
good at thinking, it is only they who have such difficulties,
particularly if you are feeling isolated and depressed.
Children's temperaments vary enormously. It is not uncommon
for parents to have one child who is very easy going and calm and
another who is much more challenging. Some characteristics of our
temperament are genetic, some is learnt. Children with a lively
temperament will need greater help in controlling it and will present a
bigger challenge to parents. In some situations a lively temperament
will be a positive asset to a child. They may be more outward going,
maybe enjoy sports and physical activities and have lots of friends. In
other situations they can become a nuisance and may have difficulties
in nursery or school.
Once a child starts school if they have difficulties there in coping,
it is worth while discussing this with the class teacher and school
doctor. Children who have mild hearing difficulties often become
loud (for obvious reasons) but sometimes they can become difficult and
withdrawn. This is because they cannot hear and follow instructions as
well as other children. They can become quite frustrated and start
feeling stupid and fall behind the rest of the class. Because their
hearing difficulty is slight, it can be missed by teachers. In my work
with children who have difficulties in school, it is surprising how many
children have had mild (but significant in terms of its effect) hearing
difficulties such as "glue ear".
Children who have speech and language difficulties can also
become over excitable and upset. The school or your doctor can refer
you to a speech and language therapist for help. Very often, children
who have difficulties at school hold their feelings in until they get
home. When they get home, into a safer environment, it all comes
pouring out in "acting out" behaviour. Acting out behaviour means
acting out your feelings through t