What do I do when my child is having a meltdown?

In our last blog post I explained that children display all kinds of behaviours when they want to connect with you. Let’s talk a bit more about the more challenging behaviours you might see and what you can do in the moment to help deescalate your child’s difficult feelings. 

I explained that some children use more disruptive methods to get our attention like acting out, or ‘playing up’ as it might be known.

I like to help parents to reframe these more negative ways of thinking about our child’s behaviour and not labelling them or the child as attention seeking.

Instead, I suggest we get curious about what their behaviour is trying to communicate, as this is what behaviour is after all. It’s a form of communication.

We might feel at a loss about what we can do to connect with our child in this moment. Sometimes children will be testing us to see how we will respond and if we will attend to their needs. If this is a strategy that they use often, they will be waiting for the usual response.

Children love what they can predict, even if the response will be negative. The brain seeks familiarity. If they know they are going to get told off, but they ALSO know that this strategy works to get your attention, they’ll take the telling off and feel happy and safe that their prediction came true, even if it wasn’t nice for them or for you. We all feel best with what’s familiar, it’s just human nature.

If you want to break this pattern of behaviour we have to start thinking differently. It starts with us as adults. We can’t expect our children to change their behaviours unless we change our ways of responding. It’s a dance that we do together and it only changes if the lead person (that’s you) changes the way the dance happens.

When your child is displaying challenging behaviours you need to start getting curious about the way they are feeling. The aim here is to really understand what might be going on for them. Our children WANT us to understand them. We all want to be understood. Sometimes behaviour is a call from your child to just understand where I’m coming from and what I need.

We have to start thinking back and using our best detective skills to crack the case.

What happened today in the last hour, or even last day that might be leaving them feeling these difficult feelings?

Did something happen that made them feel vulnerable, picked on, dismissed or unimportant?

If so, how can we let our child know that we really SEE them and let them know we get it. 

The best way we can really get to know our children and understand them is to spend time playing with them. We’ll learn all their responses, and start to notice new things we didn’t see before. Our children are changing all of the time as they grow up and it requires us to get curious and learn new things about them as they grow. 

It’s always best to take a preventative approach to this kind of thing and we recommend getting to really know your child through play, learning their responses and understanding their behaviours so it’s easier to manage in the moment. 

Treasure Time guides you through 6 child-led playdates, all with a specific therapeutic purpose to help you understand your child on a different level. When there is a stronger connection and understanding between you both, misunderstandings happen far less regularly and children become more independent in managing their own feelings. 

Check out Treasure Time today to start your journey as a Treasure Time Parent. 

How to deal with ‘attention seeking’ behaviour

I recently did a video about reframing ‘attention seeking behaviour’ as ‘connection seeking behaviour’ and was asked ‘what sort of things do children do when they want to connect with you?’

There are a few ways that the need to connect can manifest in children’s behaviour.

The way that we are probably most familiar with is what would typically be known as ‘attention seeking’. Children can up-regulate their behaviours to get our attention in an attempt to get us to notice them, pay them attention and connect with them.

This is usually because they feel unsafe in some way. They believe that they won’t get help when they ask for it, so they keep testing to see if they CAN get adult attention when they need it. A prime example of this is when you’re on the phone, and they nag and nag you for the attention and when you turn to give it to them, they don’t have anything to say.

Sometimes this behaviour looks like them being disruptive, unhelpful, rude and engaging in behaviours that they know we don’t like, and then when we ask them what’s the matter and we give them the attention they reject us and push us away.

This leaves us feeling baffled, like ‘what was that all about?!’

The advice is normally to ignore such behaviour in the hopes that it will stop, but it often doesn’t and then we feel at a loss about what to do.

Another way that connection seeking behaviour can show up is in excessive talking, making up tall tales, telling long winded stories… These are all ways that children try and get our attention in a way to say ‘please spend some time with me’. They are using strategies to get and keep your attention in the only way they know how.

Or they can be overly emotional and anxious in a bid to connect with us because they know that the emotion they give gets a reaction from us. It’s a strategy that they’ve learned that works.

Generally children will stop displaying these types of behaviour that can be confusing or even irritating for us by making sure that we are giving them dedicated, consistent and predictable time to connect in a way that they enjoy. Treasure Time teaches you exactly how to do this each week so that those difficult connection seeking behaviours start to subside.

Check out the website today to find out more about Treasure Time and how it can strengthen your relationship with your child through connection and play.

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