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Emotional vs. Behavioral Outbursts

Knowing the difference between an emotional and behavioral outburst is one of the therapeutic skills that all GLAD House staff are trained in. As a caregiver or a provider, the skill enables us to have a dynamic response that suits the child's needs.

It is important to know the difference between emotional and behavioral outbursts because there are different ways to respond. If you choose the wrong response, your child’s outburst or tantrum may get worse and last longer. It is okay if you make the wrong choice because you can quickly fix it.

A behavioral outburst is when a child is testing limits by making poor choices. A parent should respond with a clear direction you want them to follow and praise them for listening or give a consequence for not following the direction.

An emotional outburst is when a child is acting out because of upset, sad, anxious, or angry feelings he/she is struggling to manage. A parent should connect and validate the feeling the child is having and then redirect the behavior. For example, “I see that you are upset because you had a bad day at school today. I would love to hear about it, but it is bedtime. Can you give me a 5 minute summary? Then I will think about how to help you and we can talk more tomorrow morning when we are both rested.”

Learning the difference will allow you to respond specifically to your child's changing situations. If you have any questions, comment below!

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