Every parent/caregiver knows the feeling of embarrassment or nervousness when their child erupts in public. Some children go from zero to one hundred in no time, some have a slow growth of anxiety and some cry out like a siren raising their screams one octave at a time. Regardless of what the outburst might look like, here are seven steps that will help calm, comfort and teach your child with love.
Index: When a child explodes from anger, fear or rejection they are not choosing to meltdown, they simply are experiencing more emotion than they can understand. It is important to remember that your response in these situations can greatly impact the outcome of the tantrum. Lets walk through it one step at a time!
- Check your own emotions first
- Affirm your commitment
- Release energy
- Choose how to talk
- Firm, positive, loving discipline
Observe the child’s typical behavior and recognize what type of things might trigger outbursts. Use this information to prepare in advance. Think about if the child is hungry, hydrated or tired. Try to address these things before a meltdown occurs. Look for early signs of distress and try to counter them with constructive, positive words and actions.
Check your own emotions first:
Remind yourself that your child needs you to stay calm because much of your energy and emotions will rub off on them. It is normal to react with frustration or stress. However, the child will pick up on your emotions and they will only make the child more insecure. Strive to rub off positivity and security, rather than anger and fear.
Affirm your commitment:
Be there for them. Show up and let them know you won’t leave them. Get down on their level, look into their eyes and show them you are in this together. Use a calm, positive voice and tell them “I love you and I am here to help you.”
Take a step back and reset. Go in the other room, turn around or look into each other’s eyes. If they don’t want to look at you, try getting them to focus on another neutral subject like a tree or stuffed animal. Do whatever you can to take their eyes off the trigger point. It is almost impossible to move on from an outburst when you are staring at the thing that started it all.
Do something to release energy. Dance, sing, try to push a wall down, jump up and down, etc. This step can be hard for adults because it feels like we are rewarding their outburst with a fun activity. However, burning energy together accomplishes many positive things. It directs the focus towards something new, gives you an opportunity to show the child you are working together, and provides space for the child to work out some anger. This will also allow the child to enter into the next step much smoother.
Choose how to talk:
Let them choose how they want to talk (draw, write, swing, walk, where to sit, etc.) This not only allows them to be the most comfortable and open, it also helps them connect with their own emotions and needs. This will help them grow in their emotional intelligence and eventually tune into what helps them calm down on their own.
Firm, positive, loving discipline:
Provide a stable, loving environment balanced out with firm and positive discipline. Talk through the issue with them and listen to their hurt, fear or anger. Ask questions and allow them time to sort through what exactly was bothering them. Talk through how you can solve the problem or work through it next time it happens. Affirm them in their pain and tell them that their feelings are valid. Then explain to them, step by step, why it is important to act/react differently. Kindly correct them and gently walk them through why and how you are going to discipline them.
It might take time to get used to the process, but remember you are not alone. We are here to help! If you have questions or want to get connected with other people going through similar situations call or text Aggieland Pregnancy Outreach at 979-764-6636