I have a four year old. He is awesome, but like any child can be a pain in my … One technique I’ve developed that I use with him came up in a session earlier this week with a client. My client liked it, so I thought I’d share it with all of you.
When my little guy wants something, or doesn’t want something he often has a remarkable ability to articulate what he’s feeling. He also has the ability to spectacularly melt down. I read an article a few years ago about what goes on in a toddler’s brain during a tantrum. It was described as an electrical storm. The take away was that you literally could not reason with a child when in that state. You just have to let them calm down first. Well, my guy isn’t a tantrumer, per se. But, he can get his cry on like any kid. Here’s how I deal with it.
I am the one who sets the limits (along with my wife.) He is the one who is learning, with our help, to stay within the lines. There are some rules that are hard and fast, some are situational, and some decisions are semi-arbitrary just to keep life moving. For example, what the options are for lunch. When the melt down is about one of the many daily things that are not hard and fast rules, I don’t mind being flexible… within reason. But, I also can’t have him knowing that he gets his way by crying or freaking out.
So, when he melts down. I gently and lovingly ask him to pull himself together, ask him if we get what we want by freaking out, and offer to have a conversation with him once he has calmed down. When that happens, I am in a place where I can compromise with him without him having controlled or manipulated me or the situation. I can then ask him why he was so upset and possibly offer an alternative compromise that still works with what I was trying to achieve and gives him some input. Or I can explain to him why what he wants isn’t possible, which he can understand much better post-freakout than mid-freakout. I can also, often, suggest a time in the future when we could do what he wanted that would work better. (I better keep to it though. I think he’s part elephant—he doesn’t forget a thing!) Either way, I praise him for calming down and having a “big boy” conversation about it.
I guess the idea is that everyone wins in this scenario. He might get closer to what he wants. Or at least an explanation. I get to get to be the good guy AND avoid the “freakout, extended club remix version” that could last indefinitely. But most importantly, he learns how to talk about things, solve problems, work cooperatively with Dad, and understand that crying doesn’t get you what you want. I think that it limits the freakouts in the future too. Call it behavior modification…
Give it a try. Let me know what you think.