It is the dreaded public meltdown. Every parent has been through it at one point or another. Your young child has a meltdown and you’re stuck with the question: “Should I or shouldn’t I discipline them right here?” The answer? Well that depends. Recently I was at a neighborhood café and saw a mom take her young crying child into a bathroom to discipline him. Could there have been a better way? Maybe. However, let’s take a look at what qualifies as a meltdown. To put it technically, the definition of the word meltdown as stated in Webster’s New World Dictionary is—‘n. a dangerous situation in which a nuclear reactor begins to melt its fuel rods’. Frankly, I can see how that may apply to children. Usually a child’s meltdown is so intense it can melt anything in its presence. But all kidding aside, a meltdown (in the case of children) is when your child is completely uncontrollable or inconsolable. They are incorporating some of the following actions to express their extreme unhappiness: crying, screaming, throwing oneself on the floor and refusing to get up, kicking, and sometimes throwing things. Remember, behavior in a meltdown is extreme. Just whining or a few tears of crying does not qualify as a meltdown. Another common term for meltdown is tantrum. Usually young children have meltdowns when something they really wanted does not go their way and sometimes there is an underlying emotion of tiredness, hunger, or not feeling well. Your child is not out to purposefully embarrass you. Often times, it is the egocentric stage that they are in. This stage is when they believe that the world revolves around them and what they want. Understanding this can give you a leg up on dealing with those atrocious meltdowns. So how do you go about disciplining in public without drawing attention to yourself? Well, that’s not going to happen. Attention will be drawn to you but it’s all about keeping your cool and handling the situation. So here are a few tips to help you make that happen.
- Always, always, always be consistent with your methods of disciplining and consequence. Switching it up can send confusing messages to your child.
- Leave the public area immediately with the out of control child. Removing the child from having an audience can in itself help begin to calm the child. If possible take them to a quiet area (i.e. bathroom) or leave the building altogether.
- Wait until child is calm before addressing them. You will not get through if you try to do it during the heat of the meltdown.
- Speak in a low, firm voice when addressing the child about the behavior.
- Use “first, then” statements when giving a choice.
- Be clear about the consequence and follow through with it. Following through helps validate your parental authority and helps your child understand that you mean business.
If you would like help with a particular problem…please either comment below. Frankly, as an early childhood educator, I have dealt with it all!