This post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.
Tantrums. Melt-downs. Conniption fits. Whatever you call them, chances are that you have probably witnessed one or two in your life time. You may even have witnessed more than that. But what exactly is a temper tantrum? The term melt-down probably explains it best. Melt-downs happen when a person, adult or child, just reaches a point that they cannot handle things well. It could be that they are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT). As Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children writes, often we can practice Proactive Parenting: Preventing the Melt-Down. Sometimes, however, no matter what we do, it just isn’t enough. Perhaps just one more thing going wrong was one thing too much. Maybe the person was so stressed out that even the idea of something else being added to their list was more than they could cope with.
Cue the melt-down. To be fair, children are not the only people who have melt-downs. Adults, including parents, have them, too. Melt-downs, or temper tantrums, can look different for different people or even in different circumstances. The one thing they all have in common is that the person, in their current limited capacity, is asking for help. Things are out of control and they don’t know how to handle everything. Conventional views on tantrums are to isolate the child, using time-outs or by walking away. However, the is the last thing a person crying out for help needs. Tantrums (shared by Emily from Embrita Blogging) are just that: a cry for help from someone in the middle of a problem they can’t seem to handle. The last thing they need is for their parent to tell them that they are on their own to figure out how to navigate the situation with already expended resources. They need you.
You can do everything possible to help prevent melt-downs, but some times they just happen and there is nothing you can do to prevent them. What should you do then? First thing is first: connect. Connection Helps Calm the Chaos (shared by Dionna at Code Name Mama). Connecting helps calm our child’s nervous system, as well as ours. Parents aren’t always the most calm during melt-downs, which can exacerbate the situation. Moving Kids from Reaction to Reception (shared by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children)doesn’t need to be a long, involved process. Acknowledge feelings, give a hug, rub a back, hold your child, or do something else that helps you connect with each other. This helps to integrate the parts of the brain, allowing our children to move from a reactionary state to a receptive one. At the same time, you will be building those brain connections so that your child will be better equipped for next time and strengthening your relationship with them.
By Holding Space for Children: Loving Through the Emotional Storms, you can be a port of calm. At Code Name Mama, Dionna discusses what she does to help her children navigate their big feelings, from naming the emotions, modeling how to handle frustration, and most importantly, always loving them. Sometimes our children need us to hold a protective space for them as they grow.
The next time your child is on the verge of a melt-down, or when your frustration level is at a high, try giving a hug.
Also read replies from NPN Mentors regarding how to respect and enforce personal boundaries when roughhousing with children.