If you read my previous post on meltdowns as indicators, this is more of the tangible, takeaway side of the same topic. Working through big emotions with kids during their meltdowns is tough, so I wanted to share a few of our tried and true methods of bringing our girls out of a funk. I am in no way an expert here. Far from it, in fact. But if you were sitting with me on my kid stained couch today, these are the things I’d share with you- mama to mama. Or dad. Or whatever.
Bring the Calm
The absolute most important part of any of this is this: don’t let their chaos rub off on you. YOU are the adult here- THEY are the hot mess. We do not need their hot mess to get on us, we need our calm to get on them. When my girls are losing their minds it’s so easy for me to slip into chaotic, yelling mode. It makes me feel flustered and I just want to scream, “ENOUGH!” But the best thing to do is 1) Acknowledge when you’re starting to feel the agitation rise in you. 2) Remove yourself for just a moment. Go to another room. If you can’t escape the melter downer, closing your eyes and doing a few deep breaths will do the trick too. Go ahead and yell all the ugly things you want at your kid (in your head) during this time too. That sounds awful, I know. But if you have a melter downer kid… you get me. 3) Picture your child as a teenager, facing a scary dilemma. What words can you say right now that will lead to them wanting to confide in you then? 4) Take another deep breath. 5) Look your child in the eyes, tenderly. Tell them that you love them in the most soothing voice you can muster up. Speak life over them and incorporate your safe words from step 3. (“Ella girl, I love you so much. You are such a strong, powerful girl and I am just so happy to be your mama. I’m noticing that you’re having a hard time right now, is there anything I can do to help you?”). Your kiddo might try to escalate the tone here, try to get a rise out of you. So you just don’t let them. You are the adult- bring the calm.
Something I’ve done with my girls is deep breathing when they are flustered. I simply ask them to take 3 slow deep breaths. It’s amazing what 3 deep breaths can do for a person. I’m intentional with my wording here: “Babe, can you calm down please? Let’s take some deep breaths together.” With Ella, I could eventually just say “Calm down please, ma’am.” And she would start her slow breaths on her own. Emmy is a different story and likes to scream “NO!” at me when I ask her to do breaths. She points her finger at me and then waves her hand in a “cut it out” motion. Whatever. We’ll get there.
Know Their Love Language
This is a big one for us. When we know and understand our child’s love language, we can better communicate our intentions to them. The five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gift Giving. I’ve found, 90% of the time, that a 3-5 minute love-language-meeting-time will solve the meltdown problem and get us back on the same page. The goal is unity- always. And showing our child that we love them with a big love language gesture is powerful stuff. Ella is a big physical touch girl- she loves her cuddles. She doesn’t always remember that she loves cuddles, but she doesn’t have to. That’s my job.
HASSLE TIME IS MY NEW FAVORITE THING IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. In Loving Our Kids On Purpose, Danny Silk introduces the idea of Hassle Time and it has changed my world. The concept is simple: If my child is hassling me, it can lasts as long as it needs to. Because I will be timing them and they will have to pay me back for the time they hassled me. When they are little, they get to sit in their hassle spot for as long as they hassled me. (Emmy’s hassle spot is facing a blank wall in our hallway: super boring.). When they are older, they pay you hassle time in chores. Ella recently earned up to 20 minutes of hassle time and my house has never been so clean. IT’S CHANGING MY LIFE. When the whines start coming I simply say, “I’m feeling pretty hassled right now” or “I’m starting the clock” or “You can choose: hassle spot or _______”. This empowers your kiddo to make whatever choice they want and ALL YOU DO IS WIN. I have felt so empowered by this as well because it makes my child think about how their actions affect others. A functional human being should be able to perceive what their actions will do to others. So by standing up for myself and stating that I am feeling harassed by their behavior, I am actually making them a better person. YOU’RE WELCOME, WORLD.
Does your hair stand on end every time your child says ____________? You are not alone, my friend. Every time Ella says, “You’re hurting my feelings” in a whiny voice I LOSE MY MIND. That sounds terrible, right? The thing is- she would say that about everything, even in situations when her feelings weren’t involved. I told her that I needed her to use different words to tell me how she was feeling. For example, “Tell me what is hurting, baby. Are you feeling angry? Lonely? Sad? Frustrated? I need you to use those words instead so I can understand you better.” We’re working on this. But I have found that communicating my need for clarity has helped her to better identify the emotion she’s feeling. And when I know the true reason she’s upset it’s much easier for my mama heart to kick in and get her what she needs. Sometimes all it takes is a phrase change. Your little one might not even understand what they’re feeling, but that allows for another great opportunity: talking through all the feels.
WE Don’t Do That
I read a blog years ago that I haven’t been able to find since. In it, the writer talked about the importance of never using the phrase, “You don’t/can’t talk to me that way.” And instead saying, “We don’t talk to each other that way.” I freaking love this. I love it because it sets a precedence for behavior and holds me accountable to modeling the behavior I want my kids to exhibit. When my child is freaking out and yelling and me, I can say “Ella girl, we don’t yell at each other like that. Am I yelling at you right now? No ma’am. We use kind words in this family.” The tricky thing here is that you really have to hold true to this… they always remember.
Above all friend, let your goal be unity. You are an incredible parent. And the Holy Spirit is an incredible helper. Ask Him to help you with the right words for your kiddo. And pray for your kids to learn to give control of their emotions over to Him, their emotions’ Creator. Jesus is the secret weapon to parenting and boy is He a great teacher.
Love to you today, dear one. Praying that your family begins to ooze peace and that you get a freaking break from meltdowns soon.