I just finished reading and would like to recommend Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life.
It's not a beach read, but it's not as dry as it could be. And it's useful book for understanding the brain science of why kids behave (poorly) the way they do.
Ostensibly, it's an advice book, but the actual advice portion is really a fairly small chunk of the total word count. This is mostly because, while we all share certain fundamentals of biology and neurochemistry, every human being is different. A book that offers techniques to calm a child will be right for a given child under some circumstances and wrong for another child, or even wrong for the same child under different circumstances.
Instead of techniques, Self-Reg offers a philosophical framework and the scientific evidence for why this framework is effective in helping a wide variety of kids with a wide variety of behavioral problems.
A short summary of the framework is this: problem behaviors are very often a sign of disregulation, a child being in "fight, flight, or freeze" mode. More than learning self-control, which is a high order cognitive skill not available during disregulated periods, children need to learn self-regulation, so they spend less time disregulated to begin with.
The book details the functioning of mirror neurons in co-regulation within the parent-child dyad, which is the initial step towards self-regulation. It also discusses at length up- and down-regulation, or the work of returning to a calm and attentive state from a state of drowsiness or excitement.
Within the theoretical framework, the main advice of the book can be summarized in five jobs for the parent.
When the kid is having a meltdown, shutting down completely, or otherwise acting out of control, it's because they are disregulated. This means they are in a high arousal state without enough reserved energy to bring themselves down to a lower arousal state, and their make-decisions thinking brain has been overridden by their just-stay-alive instinct brain. Your first job is to recognize that being out of control is not the kid's fault.
When the kid is behaving poorly, it disregulates you. This means you go into a high arousal state, and if you've got low energy, your thinking brain also stops working, and you're going to blow up or clam up and make the situation worse. Your second job is to regulate yourself.
How to regulate yourself:
Step one- Notice that you are becoming disregulated.
Step two- Name the things that are stressing you. Review all five domains: biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and pro-social.
Step three- Reduce the stressors.
Step four- Calm yourself down with whatever works best.
Step five- Reflect back on patterns so you can prevent disregulation by reducing the things you know deplete your energy, avoiding the things that increase your arousal when your energy is low, and seeking out the things that calm you.
Your third job is to help your child feel calm. Start when your child is not disregulated. Help them notice and practice the sensation of being calm. Your child should recognize “calm” as a state that is attentive, engaged, and relaxed. Seek out the situations, places, movements, and activities that result in your child feeling calm. Pay attention to all five domains: biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and pro-social.
Your fourth job is to follow the steps for your child.
Step one- Notice when your child is becoming disregulated.
Step two- Pay close attention to patterns in disregulation so you can accurately name the things that are stressing the child. Review all five domains: biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and pro-social.
Step three- Reduce the stressors.
Step four- Help the child calm themselves down with whatever techniques work best.
Step five- Reflect back on patterns so you can prevent disregulation by reducing the things you know deplete your child's energy, avoiding the things that increase their arousal when their energy is low, and seeking out the things that calm you.
Your fifth job is to teach your child to do all of the steps themselves.
And that's it! Which is to say, now I've got the framework, so I can spend the next 80 years perfecting my technique.