For toddlers, most childcare professionals recommend that parents make it obvious that temper tantrums are not an appropriate way to handle disappointment. Giving a "time out," having the child go to his or her room or another quiet area for a set period of time or until able to interact in a socially acceptable manner, is an effective means of dealing with this form of acting out. Though small children often do not appear able to hear or comprehend reason, it is perfectly appropriate for parents to note that they understand the child's disappointment or frustration but that the child's negative behavior will not alter the situation. Some parents combine time outs with the message, "Deal with it." As time has gone on, the time outs become less necessary, and the direction "Deal with it" is enough for the child to regain self-control. The child learns that people do not always get what they want.
A research program under the auspices of NIMH has as of 2004 two decades of experience in the prevention of serious childhood acting out. The Nurse Home Visitation Program operates in Colorado, New York, and Tennessee. Nurses visit high-risk families beginning during a pregnancy and continuing through the child's second birthday. The selected families are considered at-risk because they have low income and/or a single parent. The goals of the visits are to improve the outcome in childbirth, promote the child's health and development, and aid in increasing the family's financial self-sufficiency. Follow-up of these children to the age of 15 show them to have fewer behavioral problems than comparable 15-year-olds without the service. Behavioral problems studied included use of drugs and alcohol, running away, sexual acting out, and arrests and convictions for crimes.
Antisocial—Actions described as impulsively aggressive, sometimes violent, that do not comply with established social and ethical codes.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—A condition in which a person (usually a child) has an unusually high activity level and a short attention span. People with the disorder may act impulsively and may have learning and behavioral problems.
Conduct disorder—A behavioral and emotional disorder of childhood and adolescence. Children with a conduct disorder act inappropriately, infringe on the rights of others, and violate societal norms.
Delinquent—A term applied to young people who behave in a manner in defiance of established social and ethical codes.
Depression—A mental condition in which a person feels extremely sad and loses interest in life. A person with depression may also have sleep problems and loss of appetite and may have trouble concentrating and carrying out everyday activities.
Psychodrama—A specific form of role play that focuses on acting out "scripts" of unresolved issues within the family, or helping family members adopt new approaches and understanding of one another.
Psychotherapy—Psychological counseling that seeks to determine the underlying causes of a patient's depression. The form of this counseling may be cognitive/behavioral, interpersonal, or psychodynamic.
Joan Schonbeck R.N., Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit,