Friday, May 24, 2013

Meltdowns, Tantrums, and Peaceful Parenting

People often ask me how I handle a meltdown or tantrum peacefully. First, two of my children are living with sensory processing issues so they do have meltdowns related to their triggers. Often this means they are so wrapped up in the issue that they literally do not know anyone else is in the room. Second, a tantrum, in my opinion, is more likely to occur when a child wants or needs something that is not being given. This often occurs without a true trigger in my experience. You are welcome to have a different viewpoint, of course. This morning we had a perfect example of a tantrum. The details, in all their glory, are below.

I went to the bathroom, and returned to my son and daughters who were awake and happy. My daughters had come downstairs to join my son and play while I was in the bathroom.

Me: What do you three want for breakfast?
M: I don't know, but I can get it myself. Thanks, mom!
K: I may want a sandwich, but I am not sure. (Yes, they are welcome to have any food as long as it is healthy, or mostly health, at breakfast time.)
E: Hi, mom. I want "ba times".
Me: Sure, I can help you do "ba times" after your sisters have their food on the table. They may need my help.
E: Pick me up! I want up.
Me: Well, my back still hurts so I cannot pick you up, but I can sit with you after I help K with her food. Would you like to hold me hand or help me make breakfast?
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Me: Darling, I will be able to help you in a minute or two. Would you like a bite of food or some water while you wait?
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Me: Okay, I will be right back. Your sisters need me, too.
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (He is literally a foot from me right now by the way.)
Me: Okay, girls, is there anything else you need from me?
M: Nope, I am all set.
K: Thanks mom, I'm okay.
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Me: Alright, E, I can sit and hold you now. Thank you for waiting your turn. It can be hard to wait when you want "ba times". I still cannot pick you up, but I can walk with you to your bed or a chair and sit with you.
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
(I walked to his bed which was closer to him than a chair.)
Me: If you scoot, crawl, or walk to me, then I can hold you and nurse you.
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
(He then scoots about two feet to me and climbs up.
He smiles, then nurses for about five minutes.)

Had I known that was all he needed, I might have nursed him first while my daughters had some fruit, but then again he often nurses for more than 20 minutes so that can be tough to predict. At any rate, he was having a tantrum, not a meltdown. He knew I was there and it would be his turn soon. He was not ignored. He was spoken to with love and compassion. He was given several options. He was offered a snack while he waited. I did everything I could, while still insisting that all of us have equal needs and rights. A three year old may need "ba times", but his sisters also need to eat and my back was injured. All of our needs are important, not just one person's needs.

I did not punish. I did not yell. I did not hit. I reassured my son that his needs would be met as soon as possible. I modeled how to handle stress. Peaceful parenting does not mean permissive parenting. It does not mean children are allowed to be selfish or put themselves before others. It means we guide them with love and mutual decisions whenever possible. If they cannot make a mutual decision, then we model how to do that so everyone's needs are met within a reasonable time period.

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