Can you relate to this scenario?

Lulu seems to do well at school most of the time. You rarely hear of any behavioral problems and her teacher talks about what a sweet child she is. But when Lulu gets home she will have a meltdown at the littlest thing, can’t get through homework AND you’re lucky if she goes to bed when you tell her to. Lulu’s teacher may not even be able to fathom how this is possible because she never sees that side of the pleasant child who always does as she is told in school.

Sound familiar?

In my years of experience it has not been unusual for children with self-regulation issues do fine at school, and then have major meltdowns at home.

Why is this?

I know what many of you are thinking (I mean you, mom and dad)—you are probably attributing this to your parenting skills. You are probably feeling guilty and thinking that you may be doing something wrong. You are probably like most parents who seem to carry around guilt, no matter what your child is like. You are probably thinking that you aren’t doing enough or doing things right. Your guilt is likely to be exacerbated if you see a discrepancy between your child’s performance at school and home.

Well, cut yourself some slack, mom and dad!

While there may be some things that you can do to change how you respond to your child’s behaviors or issues, there are probably other reasons why your child is different with you than she is at school.

  • First, children are often much more aware of their environment than you might realize. In school they know that there are adults who have expectations as well as peers. That’s a lot of people to disappoint if they can’t keep it together. At home, it’s just a few family members.
  • Second, staying in control for a whole day is really hard. They are probably physically and psychologically worn out by the end of a school day because it is more difficult for them than other students to control their reactions to all the sensory input they are receiving all day.
  • Third, you are part of their safety and security zone. They know what to expect and that they can trust you if they can’t stay in control. Even if you aren’t always your best at these moments, they know that you are going to still be there after they have a meltdown.

Remember, your child is lucky to have you to support him or her when he/she has difficulty regulating emotions or energy levels. Let your guilt go, allow time to have some fun and enjoy being with your child, and pick your battles (don’t let the fear of others judging you affect how you respond to your child because you are more likely to have an irrational response–I’ll have to make a separate post for this topic, I think…).

Remember, your child is lucky to have you to support him or her when he/she has difficulty regulating emotions or energy levels. Letting go of guilt is not easy, but keep in mind that your guilt is not benefitting you or your child. Start to focus on what you ARE doing, not what you aren’t. You aren’t expected to be perfect, your children love you, and they know that you love them.