Not to brag, but my son had a perfect morning. My work had a resident event that I had to show up early to work for. So instead of coming home after dropping my son off at school, I had to get ready before taking my son to school and head straight to work. He listened to my grandma, he did everything on the first ask, no complaints, no whining, right to school!
Now…fast forward. I pick up my son from the after school program and he is already dragging his feet heading to the car. I ask him about his lunch, I get sadness and uncertainty in his tone. We get in the car and he is demanding what he wants for dinner. We drive home and he is rubbing his eyes and sighs that he is tired. I was like, oh man, tonight would be a good night to snuggle and watch tv (if he wasn’t on a week hiatus from tv after some weekend attitude).
I have one rule about dinner: You eat what the family eats. I instilled early that I do NOT make him any special meals. He may get sides that are slightly different after he has done what his preschool dubbed a “No thank you” bite. If he honestly tries something, like asparagus, and I can genuinely tell he doesn’t like it, then he will get a different side. We try to have a least one side that we all like so that he still is eating what the family is eating. Tonight, we had spaghetti squash. We bake it, then scoop it out and mix it with pasta sauce. So much healthier and a lower carb option to regular spaghetti, plus you really can’t tell a difference in taste. Especially if you make it with meat sauce.
Shocking as it may seem, HE THREW A FIT! It was too “crunchy”, tasted yucky, and he suddenly forgot how to swallow! Not only that, but he also got mouthy, he got an attitude, and he got mean! Needless to say after this weekend and us already taking TV and tablets away, I was done. I then got mean, I got screaming, I gave spankings on his tush (over clothes and something I rarely do) my husband (who was sleeping to get ready for his night shift) woke up, and began taking the toys out of his room. I was ready to take away the trip to the pumpkin patch for school. After being sent him to his room, he got even worse and more of a little….brat, to say delicately.
We finally got him calmed down, and we made what I like to call a spaghetti sandwich. We get a piece of bread and put spaghetti inside. Ta-Da! He ate most of it and we got him off to bed with one small story. He was like a different child by bedtime. Needless to say, after all those tears and emotions, he was ready to pass out.
It was at that time I instantly began re-running the whole thing through my head, as I always do. After much thought and practice, I have learned there are really five things you should keep in mind when you feel a major meltdown coming. Now before I list these, saving these tips is nice, but putting them into action is even better. If you have to post this on your fridge, put it on the wall, save it on your phone, memorize it, something! Make sure you remember this before, not after, you feel a major tantrum or explosion on your end. This way…you avoid it altogether.
Ok, here we go!
- Take “Alone Time”
Whether you turn around and take a deep breath, or have a five-minute break to gather your thoughts in a separate room, you need some space. There has to be a pause before what would normally be the beginning of your explosion. If you don’t, your anger will continue to build up and will reach an unhealthy place. This will also help keep you from making any rash decisions or disciplines that you can’t follow through with (see #3).
- The more words you use, the less that your child will remember.
Parents, especially moms, try to use a lot of words to explain what is going on. Asking questions, telling children what they did, explaining feelings. So many words get exchanged and soon your child is forgetting what even they were mad about. This leaves you using even more words reminding them why this started. Your child already knows why they are upset, whether or not they tell you. At that moment, it’s your job to let them know what they did was wrong in a limited time frame. Don’t draw it out. You can even take a page from Daniel Tiger and make a short, simple, sweet song. Or if you just aren’t bleeding nursery rhymes like Mother Goose, use a simple phrase like my dinner time rule.
- Stay on topic.
This sort of follows the above rule, but the more you get upset with what they are doing, the more you feel inclined to tell them about everything that is wrong with them or what they have done…ever. Make sure that your discussion with what is going on is about what actually happened at that moment. Not any previous items. If it’s about dinner, stick with dinner, not what happened at school. Again, the fewer words, the better. Your child is more likely to understand if it is about one topic.
- Follow through.
If what they did requires disciplinary action, then make sure you completely fulfill that discipline. If they lose tv for the week, then no exceptions. If you don’t follow through, you are bound to be undermined. Maybe not now, but as they continue to grow you will be tested. If you cave because they have been so great, then they will learn that good behavior gets them out of any punishment. Their behavior is not a negotiation. they should be behaving because they are supposed to, not to get dessert, or toys, or any other material or favorable items. This is something we are constantly working on in my house. Don’t feel bad.
- ALWAYS say you love them at the end.
These tantrums and arguments can be hard. Some things are said, especially on our end, that we really don’t mean or came out much harsher than it should have. While you cannot change what was said, you can always make sure they are feeling loved at the end. Whatever helps your child realize that you care too much for them to act the way they are is what you will want to do at this point. Whether it’s a hug and kiss, playing together, or snuggling on the couch. Make sure they know everything was out of love. Be careful, this is the part where most parents begin to back away from a discipline or make it not as harsh. Make sure your discipline is appropriate before you tell them so you are not tempted to make it less severe during this time.
Tantrums are temporary, but your love for children will never end. Remember this too will pass, and hopefully, your little one will forget in 10 minutes anyways. How do you handle a complete meltdown from your little one(s)?