Friday, March 19, 2010

Kids and Meltdowns

(image from here)

A couple of weeks ago my 17 month-old son and I were invited to have a playdate with one of my friends and her children. We thought that we would go to a Fun Park where there is a soft-play area for the children which included tunnels and slides. She had taken her kids there before and they enjoyed it. And I thought that since my son was the same age as her son, that we would enjoy it. So we got there and took the kids to the soft-play area and helped them climb up the tubes and go down the slides. My son HATED it!!! I guess he did enjoy going down the slide, but that was about it. He was having a meltdown every 5 seconds, I swear! So I decided to let him play on an arcade game where you drove a car. He could have played on that thing the ENTIRE time! But when it was time to go I had to pry him off of that thing and that's when the meltdown REALLY started!! Oh Boy!!!
Then it was lunch time and so we took the kids to eat. It was a restaurant that wasn't really kid-friendly, but the food was de-lish!! Mmmm! Just thinking about it is making my mouth water. Anyway, I bought some food that I thought my son would eat and he refused to eat anything! He just wanted to run around and if I even tried to hold him on my lap it was fight.
I've had similar instances in the grocery store where all he does is throw a fit, even if we've only been in the store for 5 minutes. And all I wanna do is leave my cart of groceries in the cart at the store and high-tail it outta there!

So, what do you do when you take your child to do something fun and he/she has a meltdown?
What about if it is something like going grocery shopping or going out to eat? What do you do then?

I know you've all been there, so let's here what you did or what you wanted to do!


Britta said...

I think this is one of the hardest things about being a mom; sometimes you just cant do what you want to because your kids are having a hard time.

It really depends on the temperment of each kid but if your kid is obviously struggling during play group or similar activity then its probably best to cut the mommy time short and leave before your kid becomes unmanageable.

Grocery shopping is a different story. We've all seen the moms with their toddler throwing a fit on the floor and we are so glad its not us *this time*! With my daughter I have to make sure we shop when it isn't nap or food time and I have to take a few different snacks to distract her. If she does start to have melt down in the cart I'll either ignore it or pull off to the side of the store (as much as I can) and cuddle her for a moment- it depends on why the breakdown is occuring. Sometimes distractions help even more- like asking in the middle of a scream 'would you rather green apples or red apples this week?' because it allows them to feel part of what is going on and gives them something else to think about instead of the cookies you pass on the previous isle.

I'd love to hear what other parents do. With only one I feel like I've got it easy! What happens when you have 2 or more throwing fits or having meltdowns?

Delia said...

It sounds like your son is becoming more aware of what he wants and doesn't want and is keen on asserting that opinion. In other words it sounds like to me that he has hit the "terrible" twos already. My oldest son didn't hit that stage until a few months after his second birthday but once he did, it seemed like EVERYTHING was an unnecessary struggle. I read Love and Logic which teaches parents to give their children as many choices as they can. This didn't solve the issue but did alleviate a lot of the constant struggles. I would let him choose whatever he wanted on things that were a "non-issue" for me. For example I would (and do this now for my 18 mo. old) set out 2-3 shirts and let him choose one. I would then let him choose what to drink at breakfast...what book to read...what shoes to wear, etc. He felt empowered by this and behaved much better. It wasn't as much of a struggle to get out the door because I could entice him with a choice like, do you want to bring this toy or this toy with you in the car. Getting in the car was a given but he would hurry to assert his opinion on which toy he could bring and forget about fighting against getting in the car. I hope that makes sense.?

When you reach a situation where you won't budge and he won't budge I am a huge fan of just sticking my your guns. I just cart my kids through the grocery store screaming and try not to care about what other people think. I know that some books and some people believe you shouldn't let your child behave that way and to leave your cart and go home. That may be the right choice for you - maybe, maybe not. For my kids, going home would be a most cases anyway. So, I don't reward their tantrums with going home. I just proceed as if I can't hear their screaming. I have had a variety of responses from my kids. Sometimes they scream the whole time until we get home (this has happened like once), or they give up really quickly (only happened like twice). Most times they scream for a while and then give up after I help distract them by talking to them or giving them a snack/toy and I finish shopping. I don't let them dictate non-choices like: do you want to go the grocery store with me or not? Of course we need to go the grocery store and they certainly will go with me. I try to apply this (imperfectly but I try my best) to other situations as well so they learn that Mom is consistent. I am a loving boundary they can count on to be sure and firm which helps them figure themselves out better and feel secure about themselves. I am glad you posted about this so I can remind myself to be more consistent which I haven't been lately. Thanks!

Heather said...

I have heard of moms who have a neighbor plan. They call ahead and arrange that they are going to the grocery store in case their child is given to struggle every time. Then, when the child is having a difficult time, they leave the cart for a minute, take the child out to the car and put him in his car seat so he is safe. The friend is right there (outside of the vehicle to protect her sanity) standing where the child can see her to know he is safe but not giving gobs of attention to him while he screams it out. I don't know if this would work for you or for me, but it is an idea.

When my daughter had tantrums, they tended to occur more on play dates than errands. I would simply say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I guess it's time to go," and pick her up and carry her (yes, kicking and screaming) down the street to our house or out to the car or wherever it may have been. My neighbors saw me so very often holding my daughter close (to protect her from falling and me from getting kicked in the face during the fit) and walking all the way home with her. They were usually kind enough to send an older child to fetch her bike and bring it to my house or whatever extra things we may have had with us at the play date. Once home, she was placed on her bed to scream and I walked away.

I don't know how well your son understands you or is able to reason. He may be a little young for the next idea, but here goes: One thing that has helped me is giving her a heads up for transitions. "In 5 minutes, we are going to start picking up the toys so we can leave." or "After I push you on the swing 20 times it will be time to go." I also tried to prep her before going anywhere with appropriate behaviors while she was still happy and excited to go places. (We never discussed the inappropriate behaviors before we went anywhere. I didn't feel I needed to put that in her mind--that's not to say she didn't come up with them herself pretty often. :))

Kym, Shaun and Riley said...

I have really enjoyed reading all of your comments. They are all different ideas which I love and hope I can use(or at least try) with my son. So thank you!

Byington's said...

I don't know if I really have much to add. I do the same thing Delia talked about, just walk on as if I can't hear him, and try not to care what people think. For me with my son, it's worked. He'll throw his fit, but as soon as he realizes his screaming is having no effect on me, then he'll eventually stop. Just know, (through my experience) it's just an age where they are so curious, and have their own little 'agenda' if you will, at discovering, and wanting to be dependent in a way, and not bugged. But it's only a phase, and eventually he'll be a little older to behave himself better!
So also, now that Cole's a little older (3), when we go shopping, I'll talk to him as we're shopping, and say, 'we need yogurt, can you help me please?' and let him help get the yogurt, and continue involving him while we shop. Sometimes it can be a little scary, but for the most part, it's worked well for us! Good luck, as much as I love my kids, I hate that part of parenthood! :)

Tannie Datwyler said...

Oooo, I love the "helping thing" you do with Cole at the grocery store Shauna - I do the same with Claire.

I'm with the majority on a play date. If one (or both) of my kids freaks out at a playdate then I just end it. Claire kicked some blocks at a friend's house once, and that was it. We left right after that. No second chance!

As for your situation - your son was CLEARLY uncomfortable with the play date... which by the way was totally my fault.... so what you did was good. Moved the location of the playdate to somewhere he was more comfortable. He really did have fun with the cars, but then again he had the meltdown when it was time to leave. It's so hard with the little ones... I think you handled it the best you could. When he started freaking out again at lunch you packed up and left (which again was totally my fault for picking a non kid friendly place).

So I just say - stick to your guns! Like Britta said, sometimes this means mom misses out on fun talk time with friends because the child can't handle it. But in the long run, it teaches the right thing.

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Anonymous said...

I once took a parenting class with an AMAZING child psychologist/family counselor who raised three of his own kids and has counseled families for years. He taught us that whenever your child is doing something inappropriate (running in the street, throwing a tantrum, etc) you calmly pick them up and remove them from the situation and say, "I see you have chosen... to return inside (if they were trying to go in the street) or go home (if they are pitching a fit at the grocery store or play date.)" I love that he taught us to say "I see YOU have CHOSEN" because it puts the responsibility on the child and they realize that it's over because of their actions. He said he starts using this technique on his children around the age of two, give or take. I find you have to be really strict about it for 2 weeks when teaching a certain thing because toddlers are stubborn, but eventually they realize they don't want to go back inside, or whatever the consequence is. As others have said, giving them choices about certain things and giving them warnings before a transition also are very key at this age.