P R E P A R E
Preparing begins by setting the tone and asking a few key questions in any scenario.
What is the ideal situation?
What is the worst that can happen – physically, mentally, emotionally, logistically?
What are my boundaries and expectations – are they fair and respectful to myself, child, and the environment?
For example, if we are going to playdate at a friend’s house, is it close to nap/snack time? What are some tricky situations that she might get caught in and how can I prepare her for those – a friend doesn’t want to share a toy, she needs to go potty but doesn’t know where the toilet is, a friend hits her, people/pets that she might be unfamiliar with, what happens when it’s time to leave and how can I prep her.
By prepping yourself and your child for the situation, it lays out clear expectations and allows everyone to feel calm and confident when there are curveballs or life happens!
While you can’t prepare for everything (and will go nuts trying to!), this step alone will help you and your little prevent most tantrums from escalating,
L I S T E N
If a tantrum does escalate. The most pivotal thing to do first is to just listen.
Don’t fix, don’t assume, don’t excuse but just ask and listen to what the problem might really be. What might seem obvious to you may not always be the story that your child is seeing and hearing.
One of my favorite examples to illustrate this is when Ella Grace was a toddler and threw an epic meltdown about getting into her carseat.
Instead of just forcing her to get in, strapping her down, and having her scream the entire way home, we took just a few minutes to ask her why? What was happening to make her so upset?
She didn’t have words yet at this time but pointed to the back of her dress that she couldn’t reach and there it was, a two-second fix to the problem. There was a giant bow at the back of her dress that was making her ride very uncomfortable.
Could there be a two-second fix to the problem?
The only way to find out is if we stop to listen and identify what the problem really is.
E M P A T H I Z E
The next crucial step is connecting instead of disconnecting no matter how “alarming” their behavior might be.
Coming from a place of genuine empathy is really trying to relate to how they might be feeling – seeing the world through their eyes. True empathy isn’t making excuses, invalidating the other person’s experience by making it about you and your feelings, nor is it saying “me too”, it is simply taking a beat to say through words, actions, and feelings that I see you, I hear you, it is so so hard, I am right here with you.
In the car situation, it would be as simple as just saying how uncomfortable and trapped Ella Grace must have felt with the giant knot in her back during the ride.
This connection builds truth, teaches compassion, role models and shows respect for their feelings, allowing them the opportunity for learning.
A C K N O W L E D G E
Always acknowledge whatever the situation is. It’s sometimes literally repeating the situation or echoing their thoughts. It is why you will often hear children having a meltdown repeat the same thing over and over and over again.
Until you empathize and acknowledge that your little one wants the red car, you can’t move on to why he can’t have it – you don’t have it or someone else has it etc. Again, it isn’t saying that he is right or he can have the car. He just won’t be able to hear you until you can acknowledge that he wants the red car.
The key to acknowledging is no buts, no explanations, no whys, all that comes later. The first step is to simply just acknowledge.
“You want the red car.”
“You didn’t want goldfish crackers for snack today.”
“You don’t like it when mama tells you no.”
“You don’t want to sit in your car seat.”
S I T
This is usually the hardest step: to sit and make space. Not to fix it for them but to just sit and allow them all the big feelings they might have – of disappointment and frustration, of hurt, jealousy and anger WHILE still holding the boundary.
It is saying your feelings are valid and allowed and I will sit with you, I will hold your hand, I will make space for you to have these feelings.
Especially with little ones, sitting might mean just being present with them while they cry and tell you allllllllllllllllllllllllll their very big and very epic feelings about the situation.
The key is to continuing holding the boundary of whatever they are unhappy about, not giving in, but still staying connected, empathetic, present.
When we sit through the uncomfortable with them and remind them over and over again through our actions and calm that we are safe together it allows them to move from their reactionary gut brain to a more responsive logical thinking brain.
E M P O W E R
When your little one feels a sense of control through feeling safe and feeling loved and supported, then we can move to the critical part of any trauma: taking ownership.
What can we do about it? What can you say? Where can you go?
It’s where action takes place but instead of doing it for them, you help them to do it themselves by talking them through what their options are, what they can do about the situation and how to gain control so they feel empowered rather than helpless.
The magic is that instead of fixing it for them, we empower them to know what to do the next time they are caught in this situation again. It takes practice but with time, they will be able to face any situation and know that there is a solution and that they are capable of coming out with it.
In the car seat situation it was talking Ella Grace through after what she could say or ask for the next time she had a giant bow again. A situation I’m sure our little fashionista would face again.
Through the PLEASE tool, Ella Grace quickly learned while staying connected. The next time she wore a dress with a bow, Ella Grace said “mama” “bow” then pointed to the back of her dress before we got into the car and mama made a mental note for the P in PLEASE when she put it on in the morning to be mindful of it.
Interested in engaging me? Download the services deck to get an idea of how I can help you or book an appointment to meet.