Meltdown or Tantrum? Either way, this is great advice from the brilliant Dr. Becky Bailey. This exerpt is a quote from her website, Conscious Discipline.
“The core skill that will help you through a temper tantrum is keeping your cool. Your upset will only fuel your child’s fire. Instead, use active calming techniques such as deep breathing to help manage these difficult, but developmentally normal fits.
As in any conflict situation, focus on what you want your child to do, model this behavior or state yourself, and notice any hint of success. In terms of tantrums, the behavior or state of being that you want from your child is “calm.” Your job is to focus on “calm” and model calmness yourself. This may sound particularly difficult in the face of a screaming 3-year-old, but can we really expect a 3-year-old to keep his cool if we can’t stay cool ourselves? Here’s an example:
Your toddler wants a bag of candy he’s spied in the grocery aisle. You say, “No.” He crashes to the floor, screaming. You’re feeling angry, embarrassed, exhausted and at your wits end. You feel like everyone’s looking at you.
First, take three deep breaths to help calm the stress response in your body. Then, discipline yourself with the affirmation “I’m safe. Keep breathing. I can handle this.” Way to go! You’ve just set the internal foundation needed to teach your child how to handle frustration and become calm! Now you can address your upset child.
Be encouraging. Get down at eye level with him and say, “You can handle this. Breathe with me. You’re safe.” Scoop him up, hold him in your arms and breathe deeply with him. When his body relaxes a little, say, “There you go, you’re calming down.” Then tell him he has a choice, “You can sit in the cart and hold the list, or you can sit in the cart and hold your truck.” Once he makes his choice, celebrate your success together, “You did it! You calmed yourself down and that’s hard to do.”
Dr. Bailey’s book, Easy To Love, Difficult To Discipline, contains “detailed information for wiring children’s brains for greater self-control (fewer tantrums in the first place) and helping children calm down so they can move through an existing tantrum more quickly.”