Posts Tagged ‘what to do’

PostHeaderIcon What to Do When Meltdowns Happen

What to Do When Meltdowns Happen

We’ve all been there, wondering how in the world we’re supposed to react when our child is out of control.  Here are some tips for dealing with meltdowns from children of all ages, not just the little ones.

  1. Start with compassion. Understand the child’s phase of development and inner state.  This sounds too academic for many, but it’s the answer to so much conflict.  If your child is very young, or has had traumatic experiences, realize that emotional regulation in the brain is not yet developed. This is why we see so many meltdowns.  Compassion can come when parents realize that these kids are not being “naughty”, but just having a hard time regulating HUGE feelings.  It’s exactly the same for tweens and teens.  For great info on this topic, view PBS’ Inside the Teenage Brain. It will help you see what’s happening inside the child, so you can be relieved of judging him or her.  It’s not talked about much, but many parents don’t like being harsh with their children, as it goes against their loving nature.  This is the way out of that trap.
  2. Calm yourself.  You may have heard me talk about children’s amygdalas firing in their brains when they overreact to a perceived threat.  As adults, we’re in a much better position than are children to have perspective on our responses.  We can think about our own behavior in a way that kids can’t.  That said, adults have amygdalas, too! We overreact when we feel a threat from a defiant child. So this takes some forethought, to decide in advance that we’re not going to have such a huge reaction. We can do it, because the payoff for not overreacting is tremendous.  Remaining calm can  prevent that all-too-common volley of screaming when you lose it with your child.  Tantrums are now reduced from 20-30 minutes to only a few, and their intensity is lowered, too. Well worth it.
  3. Connect when you can. Kids of all ages who are having a  meltdown need the opposite of what it seems.  Most of us get the urge to “teach them a lesson” and then “leave them alone.” But the best approach is to connect, as an upset child is actually asking for your love when the upset occurs.  So as soon as the storm has passed, reassure the child that you understand he or she was having a very strong feeling, and that you are not angry.  Ask how you can help.  Listen deeply, and reflect what you hear.  “I hear you saying you were frustrated that I didn’t give you what you wanted right away.” Then pause.  Let the message sink in to the child – the message that he has been seen and heard.  You don’t need to fix the problem.  Listening deeply will soothe the strong feelings.
  4. Make a plan.  Have a family meeting to discuss times when meltdowns occur.  It’s healthy to talk about this, and though your child may not want to, if you approach strong feelings as perfectly normal parts of being alive, you may see more willingness to participate.  For more information on family meetings: how to plan, who does what, what to say, and ways to recover from meltdowns, read Present Moment Parenting: The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child.  Or listen on Audible.
  5. Remember that parenting in a compassionate way goes against most adults’ ways of thinking.  We think that our authority should rule, and children should just listen and comply.  If this has not worked for you, there is a better way.  Give yourself time and space to adjust, and don’t blame yourself.  You were only doing what you knew how to do.  Now it’s time for something that works.

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PostHeaderIcon Screen Addiction

Screen Addiction: What Parents are Saying

Last month I asked parents to write to me about what was topmost on their minds regarding raising their children.  Almost overwhelmingly, screen addiction was the topic. 

One mom wrote and expressed her concern about her teen daughter.  Here’s her note to me, and my response:

Hi Tina,

Phone/screen addiction is on my mind.

My 16-year-old daughter has been wrestling with screen addiction for the past 2-3 years. I’ve taken her phone away and then tried giving it back to her with agreements about following limits and her behavior deteriorates within about 3-4 weeks. Angry outbursts that eventually turn violent, refusal to follow the phone rules, skipping classes at school and grades plummeting. Currently she does not have a phone. And things have gotten much better.

She’d like to get phone privileges back, but I reminded her that we’ve tried reinstating phone privileges on numerous occasions only to have things get way out of control.

For now, I’ve told her that having a phone is not an option for her.

I do let her use my phone to contact her friends, review her gymnastics videos, etc in the evening once chores and homework are done with the understanding that at 9 pm the wifi is unplugged.

This is truly tough to manage. Do you have any helpful insights?

RW

Hi RW,

I do have an insight for you … you’ve been much braver than many parents in setting limits, and I applaud you!  I think the young brain’s susceptibility to addiction to screens will be seen historically as a turning point in our society, and you have done a wonderful thing for your daughter in saying no to giving her brain a “substance” that it cannot handle.  It’s obvious that she cannot function with constant access to a device, so you have taken the adult role and helped her, just as if her brain was addicted to any other “substance.”  I will be using you as a shining example in VERY tough parenting times.

Thank you,

Tina

There will be more of these notes from parents coming up!  I learned a lot from asking this question, and I can’t wait to share parents’ comments with you.

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