It could happen at the grocery store. At a restaurant. At school. At home. Dealing with your child’s defiance or “meldown” can be frustrating and draining. Perhaps you’ve experienced them looking straight into your eyes and saying, “NO, I won’t do that,” or “You can’t make me.” This challenges you to the core.
When consistent rewards and punishments are not working, it is time to try new strategies. Dr. Jed Baker offers parents strategies for preventing and managing meltdowns. Here is an overview of Dr. Baker’s Four-Step Model
Step 1: Accepting and appreciating your child. As parents maintaining a positive relationship is very much about managing our expectations and perceptions. “For example, a parent recently reported giving her one-year-old baby a “time out” because she was rocking too much in her chair and babbling too loudly. This is what one-year-olds do; trying to get a one-year-old to be perfectly quiet and not more is not a realistic expectation,” according to Dr. Baker. Enforcing rules that are not appropriate to your child can break down the relationship. This increases more stress for you and the child. When children feel accepted and appreciated, they are more likely to listen. For parents, managing your expectations of your child so you can: a) control your temper, b) create a sense of competence in the child, c) avoid constant power struggles
Step 2: De-escalating a Meltdown. a) Use distraction to avert the escalation of angry, out-of-control emotions when reasoning, logic, threats, and punishments have not worked. b) these are temporary tools to use in the crisis. You need to do the harder work of understanding why the meltdowns are occurring and create a prevention plan.
Step 3: Understanding Why a Meltdown Keeps Occurring. When the child continues to have meltdowns, we must begin to reflect on why this is happening. This is key to developing plans to prevent them. Once the pattern emerges, you can begin to develop strategies to prevent them.
Step 4: Creating Plans to Prevent Meltdowns. Understanding why a meltdown occurs in a particular situation, will assist you in creating a plan to prevent it. The components of a good prevention plan, which typically involve four areas of intervention: a) changes to the situations that trigger meltdowns, b) teaching skills to deal with the triggering situations, c) using rewards or losses, d) biologically based strategies.
1. Change the triggers. These might include changes to the: sensory demand of the situation (e.g., noise, light, touch, taste, smells); Timing of the situation (e.g., avoiding tasks when the child is excessively hungry, tired, or sick).
2. Teach skills to deal with the triggers. These are skills to replace the negative behaviors with positive, alternative ways to cope with the triggers.
3. Try reward or loss systems. Reward the positive alternative skills, praising the effort of your child, privileges, material rewards, or point systems that add up to larger rewards.
4. Consider biological and physical strategies, which might include: Dietary changes, Exercise, and other physical modes of relaxation.
The most important thing a parent can do to avoid “meltdowns” for ourselves and our children is to have a plan. Dr. Jed Bakers,4-Step Model will improve your everyday relationships with the children in your life. To learn more about the tools to deal with and prevent out-of-control behavior, read the book “No More Meltdowns” (2008) by Dr. Jed Baker, Ph.D.
Is your child struggling with behavior problems? I welcome your calls or emails today to help you get started in learning about ways that counseling may help. I offer a 15 minute free telephone consultation. I look forward to connecting with you!