Aha! Parenting Blog

Practical solutions for real parenting problems

5 Steps to Avert a Meltdown

Michele had had a hard day.  In fact, a hard week.  She was depleted, at the end of her rope. It was bedtime and she was putting three kids to bed. She left her three year old in his room reading quietly.  Then,
"I went into his room and I notice that he has pulled a picture of a bird out of his pop-up book and is standing on his bed trying to fasten it to the tree that's painted on his wall. My first reaction was just irritation and all I wanted to do was scream at him. Didn't he know that this was just the last thing I needed?! Wasn't he supposed to be reading?! Ugg! My second reaction was this. I calmly asked him to give me the bird. (tough) He did and I just took it along with the book and put it in the hall. When I came back he was sitting there trying to figure out what I was going to do. I will freely admit that there are days when I would have yelled. I told him that I loved him and it was time for bed. We did our normal routine for bed with reading and saying good night without any strife." -- Michele

YES!! Go Michele!!

I admit that from my calm perspective reading this, Michele's kid doesn't look so naughty to me.  I'm tickled by his creativity in putting the bird in the tree. On a good day, I'd have helped him with the tape. (I figure kids need to be able to put things on at least one of their walls.  When they're 14, they can help us repaint them. And a mural of a tree is just waiting for a bird.)

But on a bad day, anything can push us over the edge.  We told him to read quietly and here he is standing up, destroying a book and the wall, breaking the rules, whatever.  We feel so put upon that we feel completely justified exploding at our kid.  We may even be able to admit that we're itching for a fight, just to let off all that tension, just to feel less victimized.

But yelling never solves the problem.  It's always bad for our child.  It always makes things worse. 

So next time you're in this situation, let Michele be your inspiration. Here are your five steps to avert a meltdown.

1. Stop. Take a deep breath.

2. Remind yourself that there is no emergency. You don't need to go into fight or flight mode. Your child is not the enemy and is not victimizing you.

3. Try to see the situation from your child's perspective. Have you ever noticed that when you look at a situation from the other person’s perspective your anger melts away?

4. Set any necessary limits with as much empathy as possible. Postpone any discipline.

5. Later, consider whether there are any changes you can make that would make things work better.  Start the bedtime routine earlier?  Make a rule about books, or walls, or standing up in bed? Go to sleep earlier yourself so you aren't so depleted tomorrow evening at bedtime?  Whatever.  Take one positive action to prevent a replay.

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