During a meltdown or tantrum, the rational part of the brain is not in the driver’s seat. So it’s no surprise that the behavior we observe appears to be so irrational. When a child experiences extreme fear or anger, the reptilian/survival part of the brain takes over. Sometimes our instinct is to reason with someone who is being unreasonable, but usually a person in this mode isn’t in the best position to consider what we are saying.
Instead, we can help our child become “re-attuned”, usually non-verbally.
“Attunement is a nonverbal process of being with another person in a way that attends fully and responsively to that person.”https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/expressive-trauma-integration/202007/what-parents-need-know-about-kids-meltdowns?fbclid=IwAR38u_vZ6385zKCU_RzNHSjVr34auhTe9kIkxcMaWsUq6RAuUloS0qBkn1Y#_=_
We’re all able to be perfectly in sync with our child’s needs at all times, right? Of course that isn’t possible, but the good news is that when your child acts out we can teach a valuable skill…re-attunement. When a baby cries because of an unmet need, we usually instinctively soothe the baby until (s)he is calm. We walk them through the process of re-attunement.
Through repeated cycles of attunement, misattunement, and reattunement an infant acquires experience in managing the gap between their own senses and needs on one hand and what the external world delivers to them on the other.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/expressive-trauma-integration/202007/what-parents-need-know-about-kids-meltdowns?fbclid=IwAR38u_vZ6385zKCU_RzNHSjVr34auhTe9kIkxcMaWsUq6RAuUloS0qBkn1Y#_=_
In other words, as babies we get lots of practice learning to deal with our disappointment. The soothing we receive helps our brain to develop the ability to manage this cycle. As we grow older, the idea is that we start to do this on our own. After all we can’t throw a fit every time we are disappointed as adults. Still, children may need our help from time to time to make this transition. When a child throws a tantrum, try soothing them physically with a pat on the back or similar method if they are alright with it. If they won’t accept that, just be in the same room with them calmly. Let the discussion come later. This helps a child re-attune and to know that they aren’t alone. A child throwing a tantrum likely already feels shame, so this non-judgmental presence will help them get back on track.
Wanna Deep Dive? If you would like to learn more about this process as well as how the brain operates during these moments, and some advice on when to be concerned, please see the source of today’s post: