6 Things Parents Can Do To Diffuse A Meltdown

Josie Sawyer doesn’t have kids, but has plenty of experience with them from working as a child psychologist.

She gave her “go to” tips to Avelist on how to manage children’s meltdowns (which she borrowed from Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), a site dedicated to the subject and a must-have for parents to check out).

Here are 6 ways to help diffuse meltdowns before and during an episode:

1. Actively ignore

Since kids behaving badly (so to speak) want attention, the best thing to do is ignore them.

If your child starts whining, tell them you’ll be tuning them out. “You might say, ‘Hey Suzie, right now you are whining, and that hurts my ears,” said Sawyer in her article. “I’m not going to answer you until you can use your regular voice.’”

Then, as hard as it may be, stick to the plan (without responding to them verbally or nonverbally). Eventually, your child will stop whining and be sweet again, at which time you can compliment them, thanking them for being so polite (or what have you).

2. Praise the positive opposite

I see my friends doing this with their kids, and it does seem to work wonders. Eventually, the negative behavior(s) should decrease (since the child will see that they are praised for the good behavior, not bad).

3. Give specific commands

Be specific, and say things such as, “Please put your clothes away” and “Please put your seatbelt on,” so there is no confusion on what you want them to do.

4. Tell your child what TO do rather than what NOT to do

As a rule of thumb, it’s better to use statements about what kids should do versus not do. “Stop” statements won’t go over as well as “Please do (fill in the blank).”

5. Label problem behaviors

If your child has tantrums where he or she throws things or is mean to a sibling, those would both go under the same behavior umbrella and be labeled as “rough,” for instance.

Tell him or her there will be repercussions for their behavior (and be specific and tell them this while they are exhibiting the problematic behavior).

When he or she is not in tantrum mode, you can say something such as, “‘Hey Johnny, usually you do a really good job being gentle with your hands,’” said Sawyer. “‘But sometimes, you forget and you are really rough. You are rough when you pinch, push, kick, or throw toys. From now on, anytime you’re rough, you’re going to have to sit in time-out. I know you’ll do your best to remember to be gentle so you can keep playing and having fun.’”

6. Practice through positive interactions

To connect more with your child(ren), spend more (positive) time together. For instance, set aside 5-10 minutes to play (just play) and let them lead. Once again, compliment them (on their “baking,” for instance, if you’re playing house).

The more you join forces, the closer you’ll become and they will see that you pay attention to them. Plus, they will likely be encouraged to act positively more often than negatively.

Photo by donnierayjones