Question of the Week – Meltdowns
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Question of the WEek

Parent Question of the Week:

Q: My child gets easily frustrated and it quickly turns into a meltdown.  How can I best handle it?

A:  This is always a challenge for parents! Here is a plan that can help:

1.  Put your “game face” on!

Your “game face” is the one that you use so that your child can’t tell when you are frustrated with them. You need to go to another place when you are dealing with a child who is having a tantrum. It may sound crazy but it’s like putting on a mask. We are the adults so we have to stay calm. We can’t yell or whine no matter how hard it is to avoid it (mostly because they are so upset they can’t really hear you anyways!).

2. Identify their feelings.

Count to 10 and say, “I know that you are very mad right now.” This gives them the words to help them identify their feelings. As they continue to scream, cry, yell, you need to keep breathing and say, “When you calm down we will talk.” Then let them have a minute to be angry and frustrated. Encourage punching a pillow, squeezing their fists, etc. They are mad, and they need an outlet. If they get into throwing things then again, the “game face” and you say, “I know you are mad but throwing things is not ok.” As long as they are safe, avoid making a big deal out of it, even avoid eye contact if possible. Children look for any attention, positive or negative.

3. Praise them for calming down.

As SOON as they calm down, even if it’s for 1 second jump in with praise. “Great job calming down” with a big hug or something to that effect. You have to get that positive reinforcement in there as soon as they do anything close to what you want them to do. Don’t wait for them to clean up all of the cars before you praise them. As soon as they are quiet for 1 second praise them!

4.  Finish the Task.

Once they are calm it is time to finish the task that they were given (cleaning up, getting their shoes, etc.) and possibly talk about what happened. You offer to help them, “You put two cars away and I’ll put two cars away.” If they do it then say, “Great job!  I like how you cleaned up your cars!” and move on with your day.  If you want to talk about what happened don’t be too wordy. Just say something like, “You were really mad when I told you you couldn’t play cars anymore. Next time when I say it’s time to clean up I need you to clean up. If you need help I can help you.” Talking about what happened is not necessary unless the kiddo is older and you think they can understand it. Sometimes just moving on is better.

5. Try to avoid meltdowns by:

  • Countdowns. “In 5 minutes I need you to clean up” then “You have one more minute before clean up time” and even “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one–clean up time!” Countdowns are always a great way to transition your child to new activities, and we use them all the time at SOI.

  • Look at the task you are asking your child to do and make sure that it isn’t too overwhelming! If their room is a disaster and you ask them to clean up, they may not know where to start. Break down the task into easier chunks and help them out. “You put the cars in here and I put the trains in this one” and praise them along the way!

  • Highlighting the positive of the next activity by using “First-Then” Statements. “First we clean up and then we can go have snack!” This lets your kiddo know that something good is coming.

  • Make it fun! “You did such a great job cleaning up yesterday! I bet you can do even a better job today! I bet you can do it in 6 seconds today!”

  • PRAISE will get you EVERYWHERE! But be specific. “I like how fast you cleaned up your cars!” “I like how you listened and cleaned up as soon as I asked!” That way your child knows what they did right and will try to do it again!

Stay in charge and stay consistent. You HAVE to handle the meltdowns the same way every time. The hardest part of this is staying calm and not getting wrapped up in the drama. If you stay in that calm place, you may even get a giggle out of your child’s antics. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. This may not work the first few times, but, if you handle it consistently and don’t give in, then your child will learn how to make it though these tough transitions. Don’t forget: Stay Consistent, Follow Through and Stay Strong!!!!!! 🙂

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About the Author: Charlene