Dealing with meltdowns is one of the biggest challenges parents face. Have you ever been standing in the middle of a store when your 4-year-old threw himself on the ground and started shrieking at the top of his lungs? Or maybe your 2-year-old started pitching a fit by banging her head on the ground and raising a goose egg the size of an orange. Perhaps you glanced surreptitiously around to see if everyone was looking at you (they were) while thinking, “Take me now, Lord.” Maybe you even said it out loud.
Of course, you and the little darling survived but if this has happened more than a couple of times, you may find yourself walking on eggshells waiting until the next time she becomes unglued and starts the ruckus all over again.
While there isn’t a way to magically “fix” temper tantrums, there are preventative measures you can take:
The four Fs are often the culprits for trigging meltdowns. They are: Food, Fear, Frustration, and Fatigue. Stick with a familiar routine as closely as possible so that your child doesn’t get hungry, exhausted or overly stimulated. If you see your child getting upset, think about which one of the Fs could be a factor so that you can nip it in the bud.
At a very early age, children start wanting to exercise their independence and feel very frustrated when thwarted. Rather than issuing commands such as, “Go brush your teeth,” or “Take a bath,” offer choices like: “Would you rather take a bath first, or brush your teeth?” “Do you want to wear the Batman pajamas or the ones with Minions?”
Give a warning
If you see your child revving up to a meltdown, count out loud to three (or four or five) to give your child a few seconds warning that it’s time to dial it back before there are repercussions. And, there do need to be repercussions such as immediately leaving the store, going in timeout, or not going to the park. If you are consistent with this method, it won’t take long for your child to catch on and quickly get his emotions back under control.
Watch your temper
Kids are very savvy when it comes to knowing how to push your buttons. This means they will keep doing it if you allow it. If you feel yourself getting upset, take a timeout and walk away. If you are in the middle of the store, you can’t walk far, of course – but you can walk around the corner for a few seconds while taking a few deep breaths. Then, come back and gather up your child and belongings and leave without threats or bribes. You can come back later when things are calmer.
After the storm
When a child is in the middle of flinging himself around in a tirade, it’s very difficult to suddenly bring all that energy to a screeching halt without creating an even bigger scene. So, you will have to wait out the storm. But when it’s over and things are calmer, sit down together to do a quiet activity like puzzles or coloring and talk about expectations and consequences.
When children know what’s expected of them and are held accountable it makes things less confusing and frustrating. Eventually your child will learn that angry outbursts are not going to solve his problems and bring immediate gratification.
There are many underlying causes of recurring meltdowns which we’ll go over in the next blog post so that you will understand the triggers and be better prepared to deal with them. In the meantime, if you would like information regarding Dr. Susan Daniel’s professional services and/or to have a comprehensive evaluation, please feel free to contact her for more information.