“Tantrums & Meltdowns” is all about how we tackle those inevitable moments when our children simply lose the plot, their emotions get the better of them, or they feel debilitatingly overhwlemed. Of course you may think this is just the domain of the dubbed 'terrible twos' but this can happen to any child, at any ages.
In this episode I'll talk about what causes them, how we can prevent them, and what to do in the midst of the meltdown.
Here are the highlights:
(01:22) Our children will have a meltdown... it’s inevitable
(04:44) It’s not just toddlers who struggle with communication
(08:49) Four things you need to know about tantrums
(12:41) How to help children communicate their basic needs
(17:43) Spotting and managing triggers
(20:29) Praise the positives!
(25:56) Stop using “no” as a default response
(29:21) Knowing your child’s limits
(33:43) Model calm behaviour
(38:13) I disagree with the parenting books
(41:45) It’s always easier said than done!
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Hello, and welcome to the How Not To Screw Up Your Kids' Podcast. So pour yourself a cup. Find a comfy seat. And enjoy the conversation. Before I start this episode, I would like to make a request. If you enjoy listening to the podcast, please can I ask you to follow, and what that means is that you'll get notified each time a new episode is released on a Thursday.
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Thank you. This is episode 86 and today's episode, tantrums and Meltdowns, I think is gonna be ever a big one. I've just sort of sort of made lots of notes and who knows where this will lead and how long it'll be, but I think this is probably a. One of the biggest topics that we can cover. So if we need to cover it in more than one podcast episode, then please do right in and we'll make sure.
If there are some areas that I haven't tackled that you would like me to tackle or I've not been specific enough, then I'm happy to do that. But the way that I'm going to do this is I'm gonna tackle those inevitable moments when our children simply lose the plot. Their emotions get the better of them, or they feel.
Debilitatingly overwhelmed. Now, of course, you might think that this is just the domain of the dubbed terrible twos, but as we all know, this can happen to any child at any age and stage, and I'm talking teens, young adults. Let's face it, even we have tantrums and sometimes, so the way that I've decided to tackle it is I'm gonna tackle.
From sort of three different directions. I want to tackle it on the basis of why do these tantrums and meltdowns happen in the first place? Because if we understand that, it makes it so much easier to manage. I'm also going to look at from the perspective of how can we prevent them in the first place?
Because if we can understand why they happen and how we prevent them, potentially we will then reduce the third one, which is how do we manage them in the moment? And my hope genuinely is that by understanding. . This why they happen and putting in place as many of the factors that I'll talk about in terms of how we can prevent them, then we can avoid them happening in the first place and we'll end up needing the tips in the how do we manage them in the moment, less and less often now, we're always going to have that.
It will always come up, but I'm hoping that we'll have less and less of. Situations coming up, so let's get cracking. Why do they happen now? My view is that we could probably condense why they happen into four broad areas, and I, I think these probably explain most of them. So the first one is difficulty communicating.
needs, and this can sometimes be either their, our children are struggling to communicate their emotional needs or their language needs. So let's talk about the language needs particularly because if you are parent listening to this and you've got a really young child, so when we're looking at that, It's quite often we have these tantrums and meltdowns because they're really struggling to communicate in linguistically with their language.
Their communication skills are not developed enough yet for them to be able to communicate their needs. and when we look at how we can prevent it, we'll talk in a little bit more detail about what we can do in order of doing that. So really young children, it's often they find it difficult not only to communicate with their language, but of course they then also find it difficult to communicate their emotional needs.
As we get children who are, who become older and older are seven year old or 13 year old, then actually it may well be difficulties communicating their emotional needs, how they're feeling in that moment on what they might need. So, for example, you may have a child who is actually very nervous about a particular situation that they've been placed in.
And rather than being able to be in touch with the, the fact that they are nervous or they're feeling a bit anxious, they respond in a way that appears to be very angry. . So this is a child who's finding it difficult to communicate. This situation is making me feel really nervous and I dunno what to do and I'm feeling overwhelmed.
So instead their response is very much an angry one. So we will look at both of those when we start looking at how we can prevent them in the first place. But it's just being able to recognize that it can be either of those and it can. Any age. Often we think that not being able to communicate from a language perspective is very much restricted to our, our toddlers, but a 13 year old could equally find it difficult to communicate.
And I, I'm gonna take this opportunity to remind you about this notion that I speak about, about ages and stages because it's really, really relevant here when we're talking about. Our children have an age that they are given by birth from their birthday when they were born, and quite often as parents, we can get caught up in a, well, my child is six, they should be able to manage this situation.
I've got a 13 year old. They should be able to understand the situation. What we must remember is that our children develop different aspects at different rates and stages. So we could have a 13 year old, for example, , that's their chronological birth age, whose ability to communicate may well be that of a 15 year old.
They're incredibly articulate. They can express themselves really well, but emotionally they may be quite. Less developed, so they could be quite immature in their outlook and how they respond. So they may actually respond emotionally as though that they were an eight year old. Now that isn't something that we need to get overly hung up about how, you know, what's my child's developmental age in, in, in emotions or, um, communication and other areas.
But it's, it's really just making sure that we are aware of that because then, when we're looking at, you know, why is our child behaving in a particular way, how we can prevent it and what we need to do in any given moment, we can approach it on the basis of what is our child's developmental age rather than their chronological age.
If you've got a 13 year old who's really struggling with their emotions, so much so that they're, that they're behaving considerably younger than themselves, it doesn't mean that we have to use. That is demeaning or beneath or below them, but it means that their emotional literacy is significantly below them.
So we need to help scaffold and support their ability to communicate about how they're feeling, so their, their communication skills about other things and their expression of ideas. May well be incredibly advanced, but in terms of their emotional development and their emotional literacy, it may be significantly lower.
And that's why it's, you know, in my view, so important. We so often get caught up when we have our, these tiny, young babies, and as they're developing, we're keen to kind of develop the sort of skills that are we typically associate with schools, such as their ability to recognize letters and sounds and to articulate words.
My view is that we should be putting as much emphasis, if not more emphasis on their emotional literacy. Being able to understand their emotions, being able to label their emotions, being able to identify emotions in other people. Being able to articulate how best what they need when they're feeling these particular emotions and what might help them is so helpful to avoid these tantrums.
And meltdowns being becoming a standard part of how they. Given situation. So one of the fir, one of the reasons why our children do have tantrums and meltdowns is that they find it difficult to communicate their needs, both emotionally and using their language. The second one is just wanting an element of control.
Every single child, every teen, every adult, every toddler, every baby wants an element of being able to make their own choices. Yeah. Now for some children, this need starts quite young, and I've done an episode specifically looking at headstrong children, but it's something which all children will at some point want to express.
They want to be independent of us. They want to be able to make those choices. And so that sometimes we get these meltdowns and tantrums. The background to that is simply that they wanted an element of control. So when we start looking at how we can prevent it, the idea is that these sort of four things are things that I want you to keep in the forefront of your mind as we look at the prevention and then how we manage those situations.
So the first is just simply, I can't communicate with you well enough how I'm. and what I need in that moment. It could be that I want an element of control and that's why I'm responding the way that I am. It could be that it's learnt behavior, so what they're doing that that tantrum, that meltdown is something that they've learnt.
It's what we call a conditioned response, which they've, that works for them. So I've learned that when this happens, if I respond in this way, I. So they either, the condition response is either they get their own way or they get to avoid an unpleasant situation, or they get the attention they crave, even if it's negative attention.
So think of those times we've conceded to something because our child has had a full blown meltdown in public and to a avoid a scene we've simply said. So we've then that then potentially, if it happens time and time again, is something that our children will then, that then becomes a pattern of learnt behavior and will look at how we can specifically prevent that.
And what we really want to try be to be doing here is being aware of the triggers. Because if we're aware, that can help us combat that. But there'll be more on this piece in the next section. And then the final one goes a little bit further than just difficulty communicating needs. But it's this difficulty managing emotions.
And this is sometimes referred to as emotional dysregulation. And in other words, it's when our children don't respond proportionally to a given situations with their emotions and we'll, Really crucial part to going back to what we said earlier on about this idea about giving our children emotional literacy.
So those typically tend to be the reasons why difficulty communicating their needs. When we absolutely whittle down why a child or a teen has had a meltdown or a tantrum, it boils down to these four area. All right, so difficulty communicating needs. Either they're being able to difficulty communicating or their emotional needs, wanting a level of control.
It's become a learnt behavior or difficulty managing their big emotions in any given situation. So how can we prevent them? And I think this is probably a big part of what we can really be working on. And I really think the work that we do, Makes a massive difference. Now, some of these suggestions will be really easy to implement.
Others will take time, and I'm gonna be honest, a great deal of effort from us, but they are so worth it. Just think of how much of your time you already have to invest in dealing with issues in the moment. Which you could potentially completely eradicate by investing time in this area. And I'll be honest with you, with a lot of these things when we're looking at prevention, they will take up a disproportionate amount of your time for what might feel initially like, not necessarily the same level of gain, but as I've said so many times across so many podcast episodes, consistency.
Key. And so if you can only implement one or two things, start with that and be consistent each time, and then you'll get greater success in the long term. It's much better that we are consistent. Because that's where we'll see the changes rather than trying to take on too much. Now they're not in any particular order.
I've got, goodness knows, quite a few, um, here in terms of how we can prevent them. So the first thing that I would say in terms of how we can prevent them is to teach our children effective ways. To communicate to their basic needs. Now, I'm saying this particularly for pre-language children. Research has shown that basic sign language reduces the incidence of these toddler tantrums because what we really want to do is be able to give our children a means of being able to communicate their needs.
I'm hungry. I'm tired. I'm bored, I need a hug. Those are the sorts of things that we want to make sure that we teach them. So if you have got a pre-language child, then either look at potentially some sign language and it doesn't even need to necessarily follow a specific. Recognize sign language. It may be language that you create within your home, but some ways of helping your child be able to communicate with you at that level.
And the research has shown it has a significant impact. It reduces these so-called temper tantrums, um, and these, um, terrible twos. So definitely if you've got a pre-language child, it's really important to find. Of teaching them some of the basic ways of communicating when it goes beyond this age. We want to help them by teaching them effective ways to communicate their needs to, for us.
So for example, this notion if we got a seven, seven year old, I'm nervous about this situa I, I don't want to go and do this because I don't want to go to bed because I'm feeling very nervous about going to bed. I don't want to go to school because I'm going to be away from you. It's being able to encourage them to be able to communicate how things feel, and this is particularly around.
In my view around emotions now, one of the things that I shared on a previous episode about helping children manage those big emotions, and I'll, I'll go over it again, is a really useful way when we've got children who are older. Not massively older, but they're able to, for us to begin to have conversations about emotions.
So you can, this particular activity, you can do the full blown activity with a child that's able to do all of them, or you can break it down to much younger children in terms of sort of feeding and, and building that basic and then more complex emotional literacy. So at its basic level, what we're trying to do is help our children be able to recognize.
And label different emotions and be able to recognize how those emotions show up for them. So that's the real basic level. So I've talked about this activity as when I feel blank, I may blank. Now, you don't necessarily need to use this language if we've got younger children, but in essence, what you're trying to say is when I feel sad.
The whole idea about I may, is how might I, as somebody who is not you, be able to recognize that you are sad. What are the things that you do, uh, from the outside that would help me recognize that you are sad? So you would model that first. So when I feel sad, I may cry. I may be quiet, I may play on my own.
Whatever that might be is you're trying to help them underst. The different emotions and how that shows up for them. You can then make it more complex in adding the next step, which is, I need blank, so this is when I feel sad, I may cry. I need. A hug, I need my special cuddly. I need time on my own, I need to play, whatever that might be.
We're trying to layer up. So for really young children, we're giving them basic tools in a, in order to be able to express their needs using. Communication through sign language As they get older, we're trying to help them understand the different emotions, so what labeling those emotions and then being able to recognize how those emotions show up for them and other people.
And then as they get older still, we can then start layering up what they might need to do. What they need in that moment, and what I would send you, you'll notice I've deliberately not given you ages here because it's all relative to the stage that your child is at. You may be able to do that whole activity with a three or a four year old, and there may be somebody else listening to this podcast who won't be able to do that until their child is eight or nine.
It doesn't matter. The first and foremost thing that we should be thinking about is we want to. Our children, if we're trying to avoid meltdowns and tantrums, we have to give them a means of being able to communicate with us about what they need and how they feel. So those are the kind of the crucial things that we need to be thinking about.
So the first way that we can prevent it, and probably quite a crucial one, is teaching our children effective ways to communicate some of their basic needs and their basic. That's number one. The next one is being aware of triggers. So we talked earlier on about one of the things that causes meltdowns and tantrums is this idea about learnt behavior, and that usually comes from a trigger.
So anticipating them and modifying things to make it easier. So for example, . If you have a child who finds doing homework challenging or maybe a child who finds going to bed difficult, it may be, for example, that doing homework isn't the actual homework itself, but it's as an organizational task, it, the difficulty comes from being able to get themselves organized to sit down and then do it.
So maybe. We can then modify the trigger by sort of being there as a scaffolding, the process of doing the homework. But if we can scaffold that, we might take away the meltdown and the tantrum around homework. So it may be, we might find that if we help them get the task, the homework task out, we help them understand what's being asked of them.
It might be that we talk through with them how they might get started. We can then leave them to complete the. Because actually what we've done is we've scaffolded and we've taken away the trigger, which is, you know, and so many people say, say this and ask me, you know, they have battles around their children doing their homework.
It's not the actual homework itself. And so often they'll say, once they get started, they're fine, but the meltdown and the tantrum is around that trigger of homework. And all of the, that process of they have to get their their things out and it's the organization and getting started. So that's one way we can do it.
Going to bed might trigger a meltdown, for example, because our child finds it hard to transition from being with us. To going up and being alone in their room or transitioning away, um, their busy brain. So it's if we recognize that that meltdown is happening because they're finding it difficult to transition away, and it's about being away from me.
So there's a bit of a separation anxiety. , or it's around that transitioning from being super, super busy and they've still got a busy brain and they can't switch it off. Then instead we can help them find ways to separate from us and quieten that busy brain. Then what we'll do is we'll reduce those meltdowns.
So hopefully that helps you see if we understand. Where these, these meltdowns and these tantrums are coming from, we can then potentially scaffold things, and that can be the same with anything. Once we're aware of the triggers, we can then potentially help in some sort of way with the scaffolding to help our child with that.
So teach effective ways to communicate, be aware of triggers. The third one is about giving your child plenty of positive attention. And I don't mean this as in. . Obviously our children want time and sometimes feels like what? The more time we give them, the more time they want, but this is much more about.
Giving our children lots of descriptive praise. So praising what we see when we see it. And obviously I'm very aware that if you are listening to this episode and you are in a period of time where you are, and I've had people say this to me, it's like, Maryann, I find it really difficult to find anything to praise.
If you try and really shift the framing and really shift your attention, you will find very. Things that you can praise even just that those small moments can really shift things for you and also for your child. So it may well be that you say, I like the way that you said thank you. When I get, when I got you a snack, I saw you sharing your toy with your sister and that was very kind.
I noticed you got straight on with your homework tonight, even though you had a long day at school. So it's being able to praise our children for those moments, for those small things. And this is why I love descriptive praise is it has two effects. The first effect is it just makes our children feel incredible when we praise them, and it shifts us outta that constant sort of pulling them up for certain behaviors.
And then the second part of descriptive praise is because we've said precisely what it is that we've noticed, that we've seen, that we like, it just gets that nagging out of the way because what we've done is we've made it really clear what we'd like to see more of. Rather than saying, don't do that. I wish you would do this, or, why don't you do that instead?
And why are I always having to tell you off and we've all been there? Trust me. Instead, what we're doing is I, I noticed that you did that and that was really nice. That was really helpful and also, . If you are in a period of time where your child is having what feels like tantrum after tantrum, meltdown after meltdown, there'll be moments when they're calm that you can say, or moments where they really tried super hard not to lose it and then did, and afterwards we can praise and say, I noticed how hard you tried not to get across and it really took you.
A while before you did, but you really, really trialed and I'm so impressed with you for that. So where we possibly can, and it really only takes one or two instances of that descriptive praise to shift both your framing. because then you notice more of it and our children's framing, because it makes 'em feel incredible.
So, you know, let's give them a, that, uh, positive attention, that positive affirmation, that descriptive praise where we can now don't praise them if there isn't anything there. But my point is that there will be moments where they are doing something that we want to see more of, and we just need to fine tune our attention so that we can pick up upon those and praise them.
The next one is about giving our children choices where we can. Now, of course, these are all going to be within the parameters of what we think is appropriate or not, but if one of the reasons why our children are having meltdowns and tantrums is that they don't feel they have any level of control and they want a level of independence, even really young children, pre-language children, if we can give them choices, Then it makes a world of difference because they feel that they have an element of control.
So with our really young children, if we can physically hold things up in terms of what they might play with, if we can give them choices in terms of food peas and broccoli peas and carrots, whatever that might be, it's not a choice of do you go to bed or do you not go to bed? Do we thi do this before you go and have your nap?
Or do we do. So it's really thinking through where possible, where can we give our children choices and an element of control with our older children. If we're going back to this notion about homework and we're having battles about that, and we want to be aware of the trigger and we want to change that, then it can be looking at actually is one of the triggers in terms of asking them to do homework.
The fact that they're hungry and that they're tired or they haven't had a chance to de. So the conversation can be around. I've noticed that when you come back from school, you know, maybe we want them to do their homework straight away and, and obviously that would be, in an ideal world, we would get them to do that because then they'd have the rest of the evening.
But some children need that decompression time first to reduce that meltdown and to reduce that possibility of a tantrum. So that's where we can give choices. Homework has to be done because it's been set by school, and we have a responsibility to do that, yet we get a choice as to when we have it. So do we need a snack before we start our homework or would we rather have our snack once it's done?
That's where we can give choices. So it's, it's looking at giving them. Power and some control within very specific parameters. So let's just recap so far, cause we've got three more to go. The first is about teaching effective ways for our children to communicate their basic needs and also their language as well as their emotions.
Being aware of what those triggers are and then seeing what we can modify around the situation to. Giving our children plenty of positive attention through descriptive praise, giving our children choices where we can within the parameters. The next one is about thinking really carefully before answering your child's request.
I say this. I've been really guilty of this at times, and I say this because we often find ourselves saying no to something instantly and creating a battle, which when we reflect on afterwards, we think it wasn't worth the battle. Like, why did I say no anyway? Cause it, it's no big deal. They could have done that.
And often when we're juggling multiple things at the same time, we just wanna respond in that specific moment to what our child is saying because it's just like, let's keep them quiet, um, so that we can stop them nagging and we just want to. Get on with things that we often end up responding and sometimes we respond with an automatic no.
Cause that just seems to be the default that we seem to have. So I want you to find ways and give yourself permission to think. Say I hear what you've just said. I'm just gonna finish what I'm doing and then I can give you my undefeated attention. Now, of course. If you can do that two times out of 10, you don't have to do every single time, but you will notice those shifts with all of these things, if we're gonna make a positive, impactful change, it's about consistency and improving each day by 1% more.
Um, now obviously this is gonna be much harder with younger children. . And so with younger children, you might then choose to distract or move on to something else to give yourself time to think it through. But in an ideal situation, what we're really trying to do is give ourselves time so that we are not responding instantly.
Or with even young children, you can have. Sort of you can develop a little technique of well count to 10 while mommy thinks or daddy thinks, or so that we can think any way of giving that little bit of space so you can really think through what do I actually want to say in this moment? Because quite often we need to really stand our ground when we've made decisions.
Because if our children then have a complete and utter meltdown each time, we concede to keep the peace each time we say yes, because we've become unbearable, their behavior, and we just want to make it stop, we reinforce it and it becomes a learnt behavior. Now, if it's a learnt behavior, it doesn't mean we can, we can't, they can't unlearn it.
But obviously we have to go through a significant amount of. Ourselves in terms of time, attention to work on unraveling that. So it's so much easier not to create that learnt behavior in the first place and really give ourselves the time and the space, so it's worth the investment. In being able to do that.
So that would be mine is just really think carefully before you've got an opportunity to answer that. Give your children that holding space. And actually it's really important for our children to learn that sometimes they don't. They can't have a response straight away that it needs a bit of careful consideration because I think that's really crucial.
And what it does also mean, if we want to say, With conditions. We've given ourself enough breathing space to do that, and if we want to say no, but provide an explanation, then that also helps us to then set the scenes with younger children. We can be creative around ways of counting or asking them to do something first while you have a think so that's another really good one.
There are two more to cover. The next one is know your child's limits now. In an ideal world, we would be saying, I know that my child is really tired, so right now this supermarket shop is not necessarily the best time to be doing it. I know, um, my child needs a bit more time on this because they're really enjoying playing, so I'm not necessarily going to then call time on their nap.
Now, of course, We don't live in an ideal world and sometimes we have to go and do the supermarket shop cuz we've got no other option. Sometimes we've got to go and pick up a sibling. Sometimes we need to run an errand. Sometimes they need to go to nursery, sometimes they have to go to bed, whatever that might be.
Obviously that's not, we, we're not going to suddenly change and pander around every aspect, but we do need to be aware of what. What our child's limits are, and then provide mechanisms to compensate for that. So if we have to go and do a shopping, for example, when we've got a toddler who is exhausted, who didn't have their nap, that they were meant to have their nap, then we might think through.
What might be the best way to manage this situation and minimize the possibility of there being a meltdown in a tantrum? Do I need to bring some snacks with me? Do I need to bring a, something that they can engage with that will keep them occupied? Do I need to restrict what I'm having to go shopping for because I know that I'm not gonna be able to.
To stretch it out for a long period of time. If you've then got to go and pick up a sibling and they've been really enjoying a game that they've been playing with, are there ways of being able to bring some of that with them? Are there ways to have a discussion around what you might do when you come back?
It's really thinking through. and being aware of what are the, what are the limits that my child has at this moment in time, and how might I offset or mitigate or minimize that to prevent a tantrum? Now, of course, sometimes we don't even have that time. We don't have that luxury. We just have to crack on.
Remember that when I talk about these strategies, I'm aware that. Happens, and it's not about doing it every single time, but if you can do it two times out of 10, then you will begin to make a huge difference. Because what we're doing in terms of being able to understand why these tantrums and meltdowns happen in the first place, and then how we specifically prevent them.
What we're then doing is we're trying to minimize, you know, those, those scenarios where we have to manage them in the moment. In the same way when we're talking about knowing your child's limits. If you're dealing with a situation where you've got a teen and your teen is asking to be able to go to a party and stay up late, or go meet in a park, or anything that you feel uncomfortable about, it's knowing your child's limits as to what is appropriate and what isn't appropriate, and then.
having a mechanism by which to offset that and have those discussions with them. So again, you are doing it from a space of knowledge rather than being on the back foot and then having to manage a situation in the moment where a tantrum and amendment down has occurred. . So let's just recap before we then move on to the last one.
So it's teach our children effective ways to communicate their basic needs, whether that's language and also around their emotions. It's being aware of the triggers for our child so we can prevent this learnt behavior and we can modify things. Giving our children plenty of positive attention through descriptive praise, giving our children choices where we can, we can't always give choices, but where we can, let's do that within the parameters of what we want to create within our family.
Think carefully before answering our child's requests. Give ourselves permission to think, know your child's limits, and if you are not able to respond to those limit. In that moment, think through ways that you can modify it, and sometimes that might be that you constantly have a stash of snacks that you can easily grab because you know that your child might be hungry in that given moment.
You've got a stash of sort of ready made activities and resources that you can take with you, whether you're going to the supermarket, whether you're in your car, whether you've gotta have a meeting, whatever that might. And then the final one, I would say, and you'll be surprised I've left it to the end and not at the beginning, but modeling calm behavior.
The more we can model not losing our Yeah. So that we can hold those tantrums and meltdowns and minimize those, that we can emotionally regulate, that we cannot fly off the handle in every given moment because we are gonna fly off the handle. And that's absolutely fine. It is not going to screw up your kids and it is perfectly normal.
But where we can model calm behavior, where best as possible, it will then feed into my next section. So the last thing we're gonna look at now is, okay, so you've, you've understood why, you know how to potentially prevent them, but you are now. Or straight after this, or maybe even while listening to this, you are having to manage a moment.
So how do we manage those tantrums and meltdowns in the moment? Now, I want you to remember first and foremost that we are responding to the emotion behind the behavior. rather than the behavior itself. Because remember, our children could be, if we go back to the reasons why our child might be responding in a particular way, cause it's a learnt behavior, it may be that they're trying to communicate something with us that they're struggling with.
Maybe they want control or they're struggling to manage emotions. So we must remember those four reasons why our children or our teens have these tantrums and meltdowns in the first place. And then the second thing I want us to remember is do not respond to their big emotions and behavior with your own big emotions and behavior.
It'll be like pouring petrol onto an already burning fire, whatever teachable moments there are, and consequences. The heat of the moment is. The time to go through all of that. Your top priority in this moment is to create an element of calm in the situation. So of, you know, of course your child might have said something highly inappropriate.
They might have done something that's unforgivable in that moment. Maybe they've hit, maybe they've used a swear word, whatever it is that they've done, maybe they're having the most unbelievable melt. . Our job and our role in our priority in that moment is not to try and have a conversation wi with why that behavior is inappropriate in that moment.
We've got to help them find that calm, because it could be that our child has had that absolute meltdown because they are fearful, they're petrified, they're nervous, and they're doing that because they need us to know. that they are scared and that they are nervous and they don't have the ability to communicate in none other way.
So we have to respond to the emotion. Um, and in my view, sometimes that may involve a quick win, which is not part of what we want to do long term in terms of teaching, but it helps us in that moment now. Distraction in my view, can work wonders, and I think it can work wonders where we are particularly attuned to noticing that beginning of that crescendo, of that tantrum and that meltdown, and we're able to quickly distract and diffuse.
Now, of course, distraction doesn't always work. We don't always catch it in the best moment, or our child just is not for what? What? You know, they're having one of the. One of those four that where distraction is just not going to work. What we have to remember is how we manage that behavior in that moment will depend on the driving force behind it.
So some of these techniques will work really well. Some of them won't work because it just depends on the situation. So where we can, distraction can really work. Ignoring the behavior, if the behavior is vying for your attention and you are somewhere where that's possible. We go back to this notion of learnt behavior.
As into why, one of the reasons is why our children have these meltdowns or tantrums is that it can become a conditioned response. Some, you know, if they, if our children are vying for our time and attention, negative time and negative attention is just as good. So the last thing we want to do is reinforce that.
So if we are in a situ, where we feel that that attention, cuz we're looking for the emotion behind the behavior is that they want attention. That and um, and it's somewhere where it's possible then we want to ignore it. Now, lots of parenting books will say remove your child. So this can be put them in a safe space for them to sit and work it through, put them on the bottom of the naughty set, whatever that, whatever that.
My personal view, if you want, if you want that, is that I really don't like this notion of removing the child. Your child is experiencing a big, scary emotion. My view is why would you then want to compound their request for connection? by removing them. Now I'm not saying because they're having this big emotion, we then suddenly need to connect with them because if they're doing it for something that is a attention, that is that we want them to unlearn, cuz that's not an appropriate way.
Of course, we want to give our children attention, but that is not a way that we want them to learn to get attention is by having a tantrum. By removing them. I don't think that's helpful. I prefer it if you remove yourself, if it is safe to do so, or to stay close to oversee as they work through their emotion, but that you don't interact.
And that's my particular reasoning. Why if your child is having a big emotion, because they're just overwhelmed, they're exhausted, they're tired, and they don't know how to communicate that, then they need your connection. They need you to maybe hold them. They need your reassurance that it's going to be okay.
But if that attention, if that behavior, if that tantrum and that meltdown has come, come about because you've said no to, so. . Then of course it isn't. That isn't the moment that we want to hug and we want to hold them and we want to help them. We just want to allow them to work through that, communicate as little as possible because we are then not reinforcing that attention, and then very quickly our children will work through that.
So distraction works really well in some situations, ignoring the behavior where it's one of the, where it's that negative behavior that we're trying to unlearn, hugging them, reassuring them, consoling them. If it's just overwhelm through tiredness. Now, if you are in a public space and you don't feel brave enough to ride it, As in you are feeling judged by others, and I think this is very, very sad, but I have at least had positive situations where I've seen parents being supported by other parents when they've been in a supermarket and they're choosing to ignore it.
But if you, if you don't feel that you are able to do that, then with as little words as possible, and it may be a supermarket, it may be over anywhere else, but with as few words as possible, you. Your child from the situation as soon as you possibly can. Remember, we don't want to reinforce the behavior by giving it attention.
Yeah. If our child learns that, if they want something in a supermarket and we've said no, well they, that they then have a meltdown or a tantrum, and then we want to quiet them down by giving them something, then that will only reinforce the behavior, and we don't want to enter into any negotiations because, Negative attention will be reinforced.
Now, it may be that you need to continue whatever it is. Maybe you are queuing somewhere and you've got an appointment with something and there is no way that you can leave that. Then you can have a conversation with that person that you're, that you are going to be sort of communicating with and just say, I'm really, you know, I, I'm,
The reason my child, I'm working through with them, I've said, no, they're really upset and it would be really helpful for me if you don't interact, which I'm just gonna give it five minutes so that my child can work through this. Let's not worry about what anyone else says. Now, of course, it's much easier said than done, and I'd love to think that there are lots of you listening that would absolutely 100% support a parent that's going through that if you find it too debilitating.
then in that public place, in that given moment, that's where I talk about you might choose to have a quick win, and then you may well have something with you that you can give them that gives them that attention. And then it goes back to managing those situations and knowing your child's limits. Okay, maybe I did too much.
Maybe I shouldn't have taken them with me for that appointment. Maybe I shouldn't have done that because it's, this is the whole part of that kind of feedback. But if you. Brave it, then do. If you can't, then try and remove your child from that situation. If you can't remove your child from that situation, and you need to find some way to compromise, that's not gonna be a problem in the long term, as long as it becomes an exception.
rather than the rule. And if you are listening to this, it may be well be worth just doing a bit of a, a reflective piece on how often does this happen actually. And are there certain situations that I'm noticing, are there some common themes there? Is it where they feel that they don't have any control?
Is it where. They're being asked to be quiet. Maybe it's a situation where they're not able to bring things with them. Whatever it might be, there'll be some common themes. If your child is regularly having tantrums and meltdowns, you may be able to pick up some themes from some of the things that I've talked about.
And then what I would say at the end is that afterwards, If your child is able to, you would have a discussion if necessary and praise them as they calm. Go back to that descriptive praise. It can be so profoundly impactful when we praise our children as they calm, because they will eventually calm, they won't be, even if you've got a very ingrained child who's having the most monumental meltdown at some point.
They will find calm and we want to praise. So distraction works. Ignore the behavior if you can, um, in those moments, because it may well be that they're vying for a particular attention. If the TA tantrum in the meltdown is because they're exhausted and they're craving connection in a positive way, then by all means give them that hug and reassure them.
But if it is as a response to them not getting what they want and we've said no to something, then we. To make sure that we don't positively reinforce that. If we're in a public place and we are not happy about riding it out, then we want to try and remove our child from that situation with as little words as possible.
And then afterwards, we want to have a discussion if necessary and then praise as they come. I hope that that has been useful. I know that I've given you a huge amount of information, so my give this week is actually going to be all just, we're gonna break these three areas down to why do they happen in the first.
What are the things that we can do to avoid them in the first place, and how do we manage them in that moment so that you can then use that as a tool to reflect back on, and also to almost do a little bit of a mini audit to work out where what's happening at the moment, and which might be your best.
One or two things to start working on as usual, you can head over to my free resource library, dr maryann.com/library, where you'll find the link to download the resource. All you need to do is pop in your email address and you'll get instant access, not only to this week's resource, but all the other free resources across all my podcast.
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