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Treat Dysregulated Behaviors Like You Are On Fire

You heard that right.

During one of my recent stories on instagram, I randomly compared what I do for my children to support them through a dysregulated behavior to a fire drill.

I stop (giving them any information or requests), drop (down to their eye level if it is safe), and roll (with them through the emotions). And I will never stop thinking of these steps and neither should you!! Let's go into this in more detail so you can feel totally prepared next time your child or student is feeling dysregulated.

But BEFORE I go into each step, I want to talk about why it is SO important for every adult to be able to support kids through dysregulated behaviors. This all aligns with my life's mission to Raise Inclusive Kids.

When we Raise Inclusive Kids, we are teaching and celebrating each other's differences. The different ways we communicate, we calm ourselves down, we eat, we communicate frustration, everything!! When I Raise Inclusive Kids, we talk about why we don't just hit someone back when they hit us, we reflect on if we feel safe, can we call for help, can we get away, what is the hit communicating to us.

Disclaimer. My kids are 2 and 3 right now. Kids hit when they are 2 and 3. Kids hit when they are frustrated or trying to communicate. Yelling at a kid and telling them "NO! DON'T HIT!!" Isn't helping the situation. We need to stop, drop, and roll. Maybe we can add a 4th step and educate? Reflect? We will figure it out.

When a kid at the park hits my kid (or visa versa), I follow these three steps and help them navigate these emotions, communicating, and how to keep playing. It is important that we as adults don't shame kids but instead educate them on better ways to communicate. Let's break it down.


I am going to be completely honest with you, this is the hardest one to remember. You see your kid screaming and hitting another kid, or you see your student about to knock down all of the computers, you want to scream "WAIT, NO!!!" But the best thing to do is stop. Take a breath. You can't support a kid if you are also dysregulated. Stopping takes a couple of seconds.

Stopping can also look like you stepping in to stop the behavior. When I see my kids hitting, I place my arm in front of them to protect one from hitting the other. I will block or move a child before giving them any tasks to complete. When one of my students was about to knock down all of the computers, I ran over just in time for him not to. Ok, maybe one slipped through, but yelling across the room could have given him the attention he wanted or it could have startled him into pushing them down.

It is not always easy to stop. When other parents are around, we feel the pressure to discipline our kids. This pressure that "I am a good guardian, I don't know why they are hitting!" But kids don't need to be disciplined at this time, they need to be taught why we don't hit and an alternative way to communicate our needs. That's when we get to the second step.


Get to your child’s eye level, give them a hug, sit on the floor, doing these things is communicating to your child that you are here with them. Have you ever seen kids play? There isn't a lot of talking and planning out what they are going to do. When my 3 year old plays with other kids, they follow each other around the playground, they copy each other's moves, and they have the time of their life. Even as adults, we connect with people when we go through similar hardships, enjoy specific hobbies, or have whatever similarities.

You are an adult, and your kid is a kid. They do not have the logic we have in our brains and us using logic towards them is not going to help. If you have not read, The Whole-Brained Child, please go read it. It describes this all so beautifully.

Now from my experience working with students who were non-speaking and had a lot of aggressive behaviors, I learned quickly that to connect to them, I needed to show them I was interested. Sometimes it was sitting on the floor with them practicing parallel play other times it was giving them the sensory support they needed. It always took me dropping to the ground and getting to their level for them to see my dedication into befriending them or building a trusted relationship with them. Lastly,


With your child through the emotion. Their behavior is trying to communicate something to you and connecting with them on their emotion, validating how they are feeling, and then moving on is how we roll on through.

When you are upset, does your partner or best friend come in and say, "You're fine, come here let's draw." No! The people in our lives that we view as our trusted relationships are people who sit their and be sad with us, be angry with us, be happy with us, and still love us. They don't judge us for our emotions, they feel them with us. After a child has a dysregulated behavior, I stop giving commands, drop to their eye level, and feel that emotion with them. I might eventually say something like "I feel so frustrated when I don't get my way, this sucks." At this point, I will start taking deep breaths, I might close my eyes if I feel safe to do so, and maybe even count to 10.

If the child is feeling more regulated, maybe I will start giving them examples of safe ways to express their anger depending on what is happening. Giving them a pillow to hit or throw, a quiet place to be by themselves, the opportunity to go for a walk, or a hug. After they calm down from the dysregulated behavior, we can talk about what we can do next time we are getting frustrated. Next time someone takes our toy and runs away with it, what can we do instead of hit them? Could we ask an adult for help? Can we communicate that we were playing with that toy?

Another disclaimer: this won't be a one and done thing. This work is repetitive and takes time. You are building a foundation for your kids or students to find safe solutions, be empathetic towards others and themselves, and feel their emotions in a safe way.

My kids still don't respond without hitting sometimes. But I can see them gradually improving and it makes a difference when they are out with other kids or near other adults. They use the words that I use and don't always hit first. Do you remember that they are 3 and 2!? This is possible and so important. You got this.

Lastly, don't forget to reflect. Once the child is regulated, which might even be the next day, I try to talk about what happened. If the topic is too touchy for them, then I will talk about a time I felt that emotion and what I did. I make it very clear, that those emotions are normal and feeling them is healthy but we need to find safe ways to communicate and feel these emotions.

What do you think? Would this be helpful with your kids? Need help setting up a dialogue? Let me know below!

Inclusion starts with you & I just want to help.

Kayla Co.


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