Have you ever met Sam? Sam is very playful and kind most of the time. People are often amazed by how sweet and kind Sam can be… except, when things do not go Sam’s way. The first time I witnessed Sam’s outburst was when we had to cleanup and transition to meet Sam’s parents after finishing therapy. As with most clients, I gave Sam 5 minutes to finish playing with Thomas the Train. I said, “Sam when the timer goes off, it will be time to cleanup and go see your mommy.” Sam looked at me and said, “Okay Ms. Udie.” I sat back and began writing Sam’s homework. Without any warning, Thomas the train flew towards my head and I ducked. Thinking it was an accident, I bent down to retrieve the train and next the table was knocked over. Followed by verbal outburst, “Stupid, stupid. I hate you. Your toys are dumb!” Wow! I did not see that coming. I managed to calm Sam down. Talking to Sam’s parents they shared that it was an ongoing battle to get Sam to use nice words and not throw things when angry.
I am not sure what caused the outburst I witnessed during our first session but, in time I got to know Sam and discovered that Sam’s language processing disorder and poor problem solving skills made it impossible for Sam to share feelings. Sam needed language tools and positive support to learn how to cope with frustrations and also needed support for his language processing difficulties. If you know any Sam, help him learn socially acceptable power words and phrases when angry or frustrated. Power phrases are phrases that we teach children to use to positively express their needs. Simple daily goals like the one below can help any child having difficulty expressing frustrations:
- ____use 3 positive power words or phrases to share his needs during difficult situations with some support from an adult.
- ________ will use positive anger words as modeled by an adult or when he is given choice words and phrases on a choice board.
How it works
- Create 3 simple visual reminders of power words and phrases you want the child to learn to use.
- Start simple by modeling one or two of the phrases during challenging situations.
- Practice the phrases or words with the child by role playing.
- Setup some rewards to encourage the child to use the power phrases
- Let the child know that you will help during tough times as long as the child uses the power phrases.
Sample Power Phrases:
- I am not done
- Don’t put away the toys
- Please stop
- I need more time
- I don’t want to go
- I feel sad
- I want to play a little longer
- I am mad
The great thing about this list is that the child gets rewarded every time the child uses power words or phrases. When I work with a Sam, I also make a conscious effort to create my power phrases to encourage a positive outcome from Sam. I write these power phrases on sticky notes for Sam to find in his treasure box. Below are some examples of my power phrases that Sam finds weekly in his treasure box:
- I really had fun playing with you today.
- I liked it when you smiled at me.
- You were awesome playing today.
- Thank you for using your nice words. ( with older kids I use positive anger words)
- Keep up the good work.
- Keep smiling it makes me smile too.
Pretty soon my Sam started using some of my power phrases on me and trust me, I was charmed. Try it and let me know how goes.