You are happily shopping in the mall when you hear it. That awful screech interrupts your happy thoughts about candles and sales. You turn just in time to see a small child fling herself onto the ground and begin to cry. Well, not just cry, but scream as if she is going to die. The mom first tries to talk with the little one. Then mom becomes agitated and says sternly, “Good girls get treats, yelling and crying babies don’t!”
Maybe you think the mom is right. After all, she tried to reason with the child. The child refused to listen. “Of course the mom became stern and told the little girl what’s what”, you think to yourself. Or maybe you think that the mom should do whatever she can to hush the child even if that means giving in to demands. Why not buy the cheap toy? If they are at a mall, surely the mother has a few dollars to spare!
But wait, there is another way! Ok, I know I sound silly, but it is true. I have personally, and repeatedly, tried this method and it works!
What if mom knelt to the child’s area and asked how she can help? What if mom sat beside or cuddled the child having a meltdown? Neither of these behaviors is giving in to a child’s demands for toys, candy, or whatever else may be a trigger. However, both of these options allow the child time to feel big emotions, calm down when as the emotions pass with help from the adult, and find a resolution even if that resolution is a firm “no, but your feelings and opinions are noted”.
Notice that this method does not equate to giving in to demands. A child can cry because they cannot have something and still not get that item. It is okay to validate the feeling of disappointment over being told “no”.
Who wouldn’t appreciate letting out my frustrations without being judged, punished, or made to feel as if my concerns were less valid than those of others. Why not afford the same respect and compassion to our children so they, in turn, can learn how to give respect and compassion to others?
I know it may feel strange at first, but if you consistently validate emotions, your children will not use or manipulate you. They will respect you and feel heard.
A child in full meltdown mode can be frustrating, nerve-wracking, and downright annoying. Remember that you can choose to take a breath, sit or kneel near the child’s level, and validate the big emotions while still being firm in your decisions. By not punishing or shaming a child for a meltdown, you are validating feelings, teaching how to accept “no” for an answer, and you model how to behave in a healthy way though you may feel frustrated.