Just the other day, my seven-year-old had one of her rare mini meltdowns over a number of things that just added up for her. She ran to another room, cried her heart out, and while we were in a hug, blurted out:
“Please help me to stop crying.”
I was brought back to a few years ago, when her meltdowns were frequent and oh, so draining. I would just always hug her, answer her repetitive “whys” (Why did you do that? Why didn’t you listen to me?), and wait for the storm to pass.
It was during one of those meltdowns that she first convulsively asked for help: “H-h-help me to stop crying! W-w-why can’t I stop crying?”
It was also the first time that I realized that she really could not easily stop from crying and could not control her emotions right away. She was not crying just to spite me.
Children and feelings
I always say in our parenting workshops (and even the Teacher Yaya one) that children are people who have feelings too. And if we, the grown-ups, sometimes have difficulty containing our emotions in a convenient box, what more our children who are just learning about themselves and their emotions?
Feelings are important and should not be negated or pushed aside. Children need to know and be confident that they are being listened to.
Though it may seem hard to be calm when your little one is screaming with flailing arms or a rigid body, it is truly the first step towards a peaceful and positive resolution. I count up to three (or five!) to myself before doing anything at all.
The next thing I do is to hug my hurting child if she allows it, or just touch her if she won’t. This is what positive discipline champion Jane Nelsen calls “connecting before correcting.” My husband and I have been practicing this since my eldest was just a toddler.
Establishing a loving connection with our kids helps them feel understood, making their emotions less strong. It makes it easier to talk to them once everything has settled down.
Once my child has calmed down, we talk about what happened. I ask why and really listen to the answer. I keep myself from lecturing about what should have been done, and instead encourage her to think of what she could have done differently.
Though some may believe that listening to kids vent their emotions is being indulgent or permissive, psychologists actually encourage parents to let their children have their feelings, but to not let them get carried away with it.
I help my children stop crying by just being there and not judging what they are feeling. It’s peaceful, positive, and effective that way. How do you handle your child’s meltdowns?