Defiant or oppositional behaviour, aggression, lying, stealing, and other impulsive behaviours are one of the most common reasons parents seek assistance for their children. Disruptive behaviours occur for many reasons including: 1) child temperament; 2) parent temperament; 3) “goodness of fit” between parent and child temperament; 3) adverse childhood experiences (ACEs); as well as 4) consequences in the environment that can reinforce these behaviours. A child can develop automatic reactions of defiance and/or aggression that enabled them to survive frightening early environments. These automatic reactions can be triggered by cues in their current environment that are not always obvious.
Emotional regulation is the ability to manage one’s emotions without becoming overwhelmed. That is, to experience emotions, but be able to keep them within a manageable intensity, a window of tolerance. Some children and youth, especially those who have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), have narrow windows of tolerance. But, it is possible to help them widen these windows as well as learn skills to self-soothe and spend more time in their window of tolerance.