Positive Parenting 101: Dealing with a Meltdown

200-crayingKids’ Corner | By Patrick Biron –

It’s cliché, but raising children really is one of the hardest jobs, because it’s a job that is never finished. No matter how good of a job you do today, there will always be another situation tomorrow that requires parenting.

When it comes to bad behavior, breaking rules and pushing boundaries are intrinsically part of a child’s emotional and psychological development. It’s our job as parents, therefore, to try and limit the opportunities for bad behavior and redirect our children to good behavior when they act out of line. But, that is much easier said than done.

Your child makes a choice every second, and that choice is guided by a drive to get what he enjoys, wants or needs. Proactive, positive discipline is a method that gives children the tools and opportunity to choose good ways to communicate and attain their needs and wants and limit the bad ways to do so. For example, this past week, my two-year-old son said to me, “Dada, ball.” So, I bent down, grabbed the ball by my feet and proceeded to roll the ball back toward him. He proceeded to have a minor meltdown. I realized in that moment that the want he had in his head was not being communicated well by him or understood well by me. I thought he wanted me to roll the ball back to him. In his mind, he wanted me to take the ball and hide it under my shirt. Silly daddy, how could I not have guessed that from “Dada, ball?”

If I had punished him for his freak-out over Ball-pocalypse 2015, it’s important to realize that he would have associated the punishment with the wrong thing. Especially in toddlers, it is nearly impossible for them to associate punishment with actions. Rather, they associate punishment with their emotions. In this case, my son would probably have interpreted a punishment directed not towards his meltdown – the “how” he communicated – but rather with the sadness he felt when he didn’t get what he wanted – the “what” he was trying to communicate.

The key here is acknowledging the emotion a child is feeling and letting him know that feeling isn’t bad. In the example of my son, I calmly told him that I could tell he was frustrated because I hadn’t done what he wanted, and that’s okay. I told him I would love to play the way he wants me to, but I can’t understand what he wants when he tells me through crying and yelling.

I then asked, “Do you want me to throw the ball instead?” I finally hit the jackpot and guessed that he wanted me to hide the ball in my shirt. I then told him how to properly ask that, got him to repeat after me, and the world was once again right in the Biron household.

The hard part in all of this is controlling your own emotions as you try to teach your child how to control theirs. Like I mentioned, it’s easier said than done. Also, remember that your child can either be doing the right thing or the wrong thing at any given time. They can’t do both at once. So, if you put your child in situations that limit bad behavior and encourage good decisions, you are staying one step ahead of the game. You can’t put a cookie in front of a two-year-old and tell her not to eat it while you leave the room. She just doesn’t have high enough cognitive development to understand delayed gratification, and you’re setting her up for failure. Instead, give her two or three things she can do while Mommy goes potty, and then praise her for choosing one of those good things. Remember, praise the positive and neutralize the negative.

All that said, tomorrow there will be another lesson, another meltdown. It might be for my son too – not just me.