Over the past few years I have had many parents talk to me about their children having meltdowns. The parent is usually not sure what to do especially when the emotional pleas take place in public. I would like to suggest that many of these meltdowns could be reduced if the parent would think about how they can live as a “champion parent,” as opposed to being a victim of their child’s behavior.
That sounds quite harsh, but I am suggesting that parents join me in cutting some of their own disorganization, also known as spontaneity so that their children can live with less confusion in their lives as well. This frees our children from having their needs driven by emotions and impulses. Just like our appetite for particular foods can change, so we can proactively change the addiction to behavioral meltdowns.
Meltdowns tend to happen in people’s lives when they are feeling out of control.
Why would a child feel out of control? Perhaps because our children are witnessing their parents living without clear, predictable patterns. It may be that we, as parents, have chosen to not live a self-disciplined lifestyle, but rather in a “fun and spontaneous manner”. And then we expect our children to be able to live this way too. However, children naturally expect their parents to be in charge of them and their environment. Children need predictability.
Instead, children often witness their parents living life with an unexplainable rhythm. This creates an emotional response which rises up as a meltdown. The meltdown occurs in order to get the parent to refocus.
So, you ask, how do I live life free from meltdown hell?
The key is to start living in a more orderly manner.
For example: A disciplined or more predictable life could be demonstrated by the parent choosing a certain day of the week for specific activities. This needs to be clearly communicated, initiated, and followed through, for the rhythm to be established.
Develop and Stick to a Plan
Imagine how automatic such a plan would be if you would stick to it for the next six months. Maybe Monday is Spaghetti Night, and then there is Taco Tuesday, etc. If you have your meal plan in sync, you will no longer need to be grocery shopping for huge amounts of unplanned-for foods. You will therefore only need to grocery shop on Tuesdays with your predetermined list and with your predetermined amount of budget funds and coupons. If your child states that they need a glue stick on Thursday night, you will add that item to the grocery list for when you go to the store for next week on Tuesday. This is a practical example of demonstrating that you will provide for your child’s needs in a predictable and less chaotic manner.
What does this matter-of-fact, mindful way of living do for your family? It cuts the chaos from your own brain and your family life. Why do I suggest doing this for six months? Because it will take about two months for this pattern to happen automatically, another two to see the benefits, and then you will be able to reap the benefits for the next two months. Who knows, you might even decide that you like living in a less chaotic way for the rest of your lifetime.
You might enjoy having such a tool to help your child reduce meltdowns. And you might see your child’s extreme emotional swings and impulsiveness decrease. Wow! When we parent in a way that makes the child feel that we are protecting them, providing for them, and helping them get to the next developmental stage; then the natural response from a traditional child is to feel more secure and stable.
This secure and predictable lifestyle leads to cutting the child’s chaos from their environment.
Your children may at first try to reject these new interactions, but with perseverance and a good sense of humor, this too will pass… and so will the meltdowns.