I’m going to walk you through a typical situation and show you how, with a few small tweaks you can avoid the escalation in behaviour and bring calm back to the situation.
I’m sure you can relate to this:
My daughter’s favourite pair of socks are missing, and she won’t wear another pair.
And you might think this is crazy. Why can’t she just wear another pair?!
And you’d be right… except my daughter and socks are not a good mix.
They have to be just the right softness, no seams on the toe and the right height… She is a sock perfectionist.
Socks go missing in my house. I know this isn’t just me, right? Anyone else has a sock eating monster? Please let me know if you have the same problem.
So, this morning,
We had the beginning of a full-blown mega-meltdown.
My husband was waiting to take her to a playdate and NO socks!!!!
I could feel the temperature rising and the panic descending.
So, what to do?
It is in these moments we can add more fuel to the fire or throw a huge bucket of cold water onto the situation and put the whole fire out.
Here are my top 3 tips.
1. Don’t drop into the pit of despair.
What’s the pit? Knowing this has helped me hundreds of times and helped hundreds of my clients too.
“The pit of despair” is the feeling that a situation is so bad that nothing you can do will change it. It’s in these moments that your child is having a hard time, has run out of options, can’t see a way out or they’re stuck in overwhelm.
What’s the point of us all getting stuck down the pit? If I’m in the pit of despair, I’m not able to stay out of the emotion and support my daughter to find solutions to get us through.
Getting angry or shouting is joining in their chaos, it does not help de-escalate a meltdown. In fact it makes the situation a hell of a lot worse. A brain gets triggered into a fight, flight or freeze reflex, so anything that appears threatening will naturally escalate a meltdown. (Yours and theirs!)
Take a deep breath and walk out of the room if you need to, your child is already in an increased emotional state, being in their personal space can only make things worse.
Do not engage, give her a moment to feel her own frustration. Asking your child to calm down or stop over reacting isn’t going to make them stop.
You think you don’t have time? Believe me, 2 minutes to gather your patience is going to save you a huge amount of time and struggles.
2. Acknowledge her frustration.
The first step in Language of Listening® is Say What You See. It’s the missing step in parenting, it’s the step if we skip it and go straight to trying to set boundaries and control our child’s behaviour, it falls flat because we are not starting where our child is.
I know just how frustrating our kids can seem, they get fixated on something we think is not important and nothing worth fussing about. But however trivial you think it is, validating their wants or likes and their right to feel how they feel shows that you accept their thoughts and feelings.
One of the best parts of Saying What You See® is that your child will feel like you’re on their side, which makes them more open to your guidance and support.
Say What You See® would sound like this: “You’re so upset, you love those socks, you finally found a pair you actually like and now you can’t find them!”
Now, this is a big one! Don’t pay attention to HOW she sounds. pay attention to WHAT she says.
When your child is frustrated, she is going to sound rude, this is not the time to teach her how to speak respectfully.
She is talking in that ear-splitting, trigger pushing tone because she is frustrated not because she is being rude. The only way to calm the situation down is through YOU staying calm. Your child in those moments will not lead the way.
During a meltdown or upset, your child’s brain is engulfed with adrenaline and cortisol, so their thinking, logical brain is offline. It may seem tempting to try and engage their rational brain but now is NOT the time.
3. This is the time to calm everything down.
In Language of Listening® when you Say What You See® you DON’T add judging, fixing, questions, teaching.
“Stop fussing, they’re only socks, you’re just being silly now!”
“Well, if you just put them away then you’ll know where they were.”
“Where do you think they are?”
“If you don’t pull yourself together, that’s it! No friends house!”
all this will just escalate the misery.
Start with SWYS: “Oh sweetie, you really want to go to your friend’s house AND we can’t find your favourite socks. That is SOOO frustrating.”
The next step is to offer a CAN DO. Literally what your child CAN DO that’s Ok with you and still within your boundary.
You just turn it over to your child with our all-purpose statement.
“Hmm. Must be something you can do,” and wait to see your child’s solution.
If your child doesn’t reply, offer some CAN DOs of your own, you can ask yourself, “What else would work?”
“It seems to me; you have two options. you can wear another pair of socks or wear your sandals.”
And I left it at that.
No more communication, I gave my daughter the space she needed. And within moments, she was putting on her sandals.
And I could point out her STRENGTH “You got frustrated, you calmed down and you found a way to make it work!”
The importance of leaving a tricky situation by pointing out a STRENGTH is that it helps your child see their greatness and gain confidence in their abilities. The next time a situation like this arises, your child has real world physical proof that she DID calm down, she did find a way to make it work and she can call on that next time.
And now the ‘fixer’ in me is busy trying to remember where those socks came from and how I can buy a truckload of them, or just buy her boots with that fur lining and then there’ll be no need for socks… But oops! That would make me the problem-solver, not her. Better to turn it over to her and let her figure it out.”