Quick TipTip: Preventing Emotional Outbursts & Meltdowns

Mother consoling crying daughter


We’ve all been there – having what we think is a reasonable parenting interaction with our child and then all of a sudden it becomes a hot mess. Who would have guessed that taking the garbage out would end up in World War 3!

The best defense in this situation is a good offense, so let’s look at how to prevent these situations in the first place.

  1. Understand the triggers: Most of our kids are pretty predictable – certain times of day, certain activities are more likely to set them off.  If you aren’t sure, try creating a trigger journal and write down every time your kid meltdowns – what happened just before, what else you noticed, time of day, etc…   
  2. Notice as the temperature starts to rise:  Most of our kids aren’t suddenly over the deep end.  If 0 is calm and 100 is intense, your child might have a pattern like 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, 100!  If you catch things before they get really hot, you can often calm the situation down more quickly and get things back on track before an explosion happens.
  3. Own your role:  Sometimes we inadvertently add fuel to the fire when we have kids with short fuses.  If you know your child is passing a limit and is about to lose control, stop pushing (even if you are perfectly “right” in what you’re asking). Do what you can to keep your own emotions in check, and recover quickly (including an apology) when you aren’t as calm as you would prefer.
  4. Debrief and strategize in neutral territory: Don’t try to fix things in the heat of the moment.  Lecturing your child about being disrespectful when they are triggered and not on their best behavior will likely make things even worse.  Choose a more calm time to talk (Saturday Morning at Waffle House is one of my favorites) and consider finding a way to partner with your child to come up with a solution, rather than enforcing what you think is the “right” one.

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