In our coaching session Krista and Ted were frustrated that they had let their tired daughter, Carlie, go back up the ski hill just one more time at the end of the day.
“We should have known better. The low point of our whole vacation was her huge meltdown on that last icy slope. She kept screaming, ‘I can’t get down!’ Everyone was staring at us!” Krista tried to calm Carlie down (with a fair degree of embarrassment) while Ted followed their younger, more confident daughter down the hill.
“So how did Carlie get down?” I asked as they shook their heads at the memory.
“She eventually figured out how to get her skis off and make her way down to safety.”
“So she didn’t need the ski patrol to give her a ride? Huh,” I said with a bit of agenda, “Even though she was terrified on what the whole family agreed was a really difficult, icy, steep slope, she eventually calmed down and figured out how to solve her problem. Doesn’t sound so dismal to me.”
A curious look came over both Krista and Ted. “Huh, never would have thought to look at it that way.”
I explained how they could shift their focus away from the long public meltdown, and shift the focus to the final part of the process in which Carlie recovered and regrouped. This shift would help to combat and erase the under-the-surface messages that were on the order of, “Here we go again. You’re a problem, you’ve got no emotional control, and you’re embarrassing me!!” Putting the focus on what kids do well with specific concrete details effectively strengthens those helpful brain pathways, just like for athletes who visualize their routine or technique. It’s an example of the principle, “Whatever you focus on, you’ll get more of,” and also reflects the Bible’s command to “think on” whatever is praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8)
Over time, as Krista and Ted continue to focus on whatever process their daughter uses to end a meltdown and regroup, they will help Carlie to shorten the meltdowns and arrive at problem-solving more quickly when she struggles.
Ted and Krista decided that maybe it hadn’t been such a mistake to let their daughter take the run she wanted to, and that they could look at inevitable meltdowns as opportunities to strengthen skills of calming down when stressed. In the process they would build their child’s identity as an overcomer and a learner.
What is a situation in which your child often gets very upset/has an outburst?Apply it Now:
- Instead of trying to control your child’s emotions, try to facilitate his ability to work through it himself — empathize/help him label his feelings, and then ask how he thinks he could solve it.
- After the difficult emotions/outburst has subsided, make some observations about how he was able to calm down and solve his problem. Talk about the natural benefits of what he did, for himself and others.
- Celebrate his accomplishment and express confidence that he is learning and growing in awesome ways!
Note: In most parenting tips, we change names to protect families’ privacy.
Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook When Your Child Misbehaves – Four Strategies for Lasting Change.