Temper Tantrums and Meltdowns, Behavioral issues, Parenting strategies
26 February, 2018
How to Defuse your Child's Temper Tantrums and Meltdowns
By: Lorena Patrucco, RECE, B.A (Psych), M.A.
The key to successfully managing meltdowns and problematic behaviour is providing adequate preventive interventions. Meltdowns or explosive behaviour cause a lot of tension and frustration not only to parents, but also to the children as they become unavailable to regulate their emotions.
Sometimes temper tantrums may feel like a failure as a parent to “control” your child, but realistically, meltdowns don’t speak about your parenting ability, on the contrary, speaks of a self-regulation skill your child needs to further develop…and you can help him! Children’s behaviour is also a way of communicating their needs and feelings as well as signaling discomfort. Maybe your child is tired, hungry, finds relating or learning taxing among other reasons.
What if I tell you that when you tune into your child’s feelings and thoughts you would not only help your child to further develop self-regulation skills, but your child would also learn to understand their own internal world?
Dr Daniel Siegel describes the internal world as helping your child to develop “insight” into our lives and develop empathy for others (2020). When you tune into your child’s feelings by acknowledging their feelings and offering them your emotional support and/or coping tools, you are naturally stepping into their inner world and helping them to build their “mindsight” and role modeling compassion and empathy for others (Siegel, 2020). For more information about helping your child to develop mindsight, please follow the link to Dr Siegel’s interview with Happily Family.
The following strategies may guide in helping your child to develop emotional regulation skills and lessen undesirable outbursts or behavior.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings, let her/him know that you understand what he is going through. In a calm voice, you could say, “I know you are angry, because you wanted to play longer with your friends”.
Keep yourself cool. Do not Lesson your child at this time, connect with his emotions first. Keep calm, use breathing techniques, distractions, sing a soothing song.
When your child is calmer, you can use simple words to explain what was expected of him or what could be done next time.
Develop a consistent daily routine/schedule to increase predictability and consistency in your child’s life.
Be predictable and consistent in your expectations and responses to behaviour.
Reflect on your child’s abilities, Can she/he do it on her own? Or does she/he want to do it today?
These two questions will help you to reflect on your child’s current abilities and developmental skills level and identify if your expectations may be too high or not for your child to do.
Give ample warning or transitions. You could use tools such as visual aids, timers, time-timer, etc.
Use visuals (picture schedule, checklists) to support reminders of expectations, routines, and rules.
Consider factors, such as hunger, fatigue, and possible overstimulation (would it be too crowded? Too loud?)
Speak in clear and direct language. Try to use statements such as “first, then”, “First we pick up the toys, and then we have a snack”.
Try to state what your child should do, not what he should not do.
Focus on your child’s positive behaviour and provide encouragement frequently “Thank you for getting ready so fast today, now we are ahead of the ball”
ASK FOR HELP! If your child has frequent meltdowns that aren’t responsive to interventions, don’t wait until you are at your wit’s end….ask to speak with one of the Child and Youth Therapists at Harmony Counselling to improve the chances of avoiding them.
Source: Siegel, D. (2020). The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are (3rd Ed.). The Guilford Press, NY.
Get more information, recommendations and parenting strategies in our Blog PostTemper Tantrums
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