As a therapist who specializes in children and family therapy, I hear questions from parents on a daily basis about how to effectively calm a child when they are having a tantrum. Well, before I share all my therapy secrets….here is a little science behind what is happening to your child’s brain when they are experiencing a big emotion and displaying a tantrum.
(get your pen a paper ready)
When your child is having a tantrum, they can’t process your commands.
Let me say this again ... when your child is having a tantrum or experiencing a big emotion, they can NOT process your words or commands. Yep, it’s like talking to a brick wall.
When your child is experiencing a flood of emotion, they are unable to comprehend and process your calming techniques or implement them.
Saying “Calm down Caleb, stop screaming and talk to me” isn’t as effective as you’d like it to be. Their brain has produced cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. These chemicals basically block the child from activating the logic portion of their brain and they are only responding with intense emotions. (fyi: this happens to adults too, check out a later blog on this)
So now you are thinking: Great Megan. Thanks for starting this blog and telling me when my child is screaming on the floor of the grocery store because I won’t let them have another free sugar cookie, and I’m patiently telling them to calm down or “make good choices”, that they emotionally can’t comprehend my commands?!
Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.
So, here comes the good part: What can you do to prevent this all too frequent grocery store meltdown?
- Communication. Let your child know of your expectations before going into the location. ex:” Caleb, we are going to pick things out for dinner. I need your help finding room for all the food in the cart. Mommy is going to pick out the food and your job is to put it in the basket for me please.” (this is a fun activity for the child to feel independent, and helpful)
- Observation. Notice your child’s emotional trigger signs. (their body language will tell you if they are starting to get overwhelmed or frustrated). Once you notice those unique triggers or warming signs that is the time to implement your calming techniques (there will be a blog about scientifically proven calming techniques to use on children depending on their age)
- Positive Rewards. Once your child successfully gains control over their emotions after one of these techniques have been implemented, PRAISE THEM. I mean, really applaud them for acknowledging their big emotion and then expressing that feeling in a healthy way.
*Reminder: Encourage your child that it is okay to have all of their emotions and feelings, it is how they express those feelings and emotions that is restricted.
Alrighty ya’ll! Thank you for stopping by and for checking out my new blog post. Please stay tuned for more blogs, helpful information and fun therapeutic interventions to use on your littles.