to prevent the meltdown {peaceful parenting 101}

I have a daughter that is a screamer, a child who cannot handle disappointment.
Remember the one who broke down at Disneyland?
She makes my heart soar with that smile, that laugh.  She makes up stories and
rambles, telling them for hours and makes sure you hear every word.  She is witty,
sassy, and remarkably quick.  She prays and asks Jesus to "speak up," climbs into
laps and snuggles close.

And she melts down.  Easily.  When she cannot go where she wants, play with what she wants,
do exactly what she wants at the moment she yells, screams, becomes inconsolable.
Her face and body tense up as she screams and my heart breaks for her,
knowing she doesn't want to be out of control, knowing she longs to be wrapped in arms.

She's not manipulative or trying to get her way,
she's just disappointed and does not yet know how to deal with those big emotions.
What's a mama to do?

I'm a yes mama.  I say yes most of the time.
If I am making dinner and my kids ask
for a bowl of cereal, I give them one.
If I say let's go to bed and one of my kids says
they are not tired, I let them stay up.
I try not to impose arbitrary rules on my kids just as
I would not want them imposed on me.
I like to eat when I am hungry and sleep when I am tired.  I get that.

So when I tell my kids no there is a reason for it.
Like they want to go somewhere that we really
can't go right then or they want to take a toy someone else has.
Most of my children get it. If I say no, they say okay.
But not this sweet girl. Her disappointment overwhelms and
she can't control herself.

Our desire is to make our home, our family, a place of peace.
And so as parents we seek out ways to create and encourage it.
When you have a child that melts down every time she is disappointed
not only is that peace broken, but so is that precious child's spirit.
We do what we can then to prevent a meltdown before it happens.
 I thought I would share, and so I call this {can you believe it, I know it's such a strange title}...

How to prevent a meltdown
{peaceful parenting 101}

*these are not my ideas.  I know other people who follow similar methods and I am sure someone has probably written a book about these ideas.  So I can't take credit, just sharing what works for us on our 
peaceful parenting path*

Here is a typical scenario where we mindfully address our sweet girl before a meltdown occurs...

Hannah: I want to go the park now!
Me: You want to go to the park right now honey?
Hannah: Yes, you have to take me.
Me: I hear you baby.  You really want me to take you to the park right now.  I'm not saying we can't go but there are a few issues.  See, Pearl is napping and I am in the middle of making dinner.  That makes taking you to the park right now very difficult.  I know you want to go and I would love to take you but we have those other things to think of too.  Can you help me figure out what we can do about this?
Hannah: We can wake Pearl up and you can make dinner when we get home.
Me: Well, that might work except that I have already started dinner and I can't stop cooking in the middle of it.  Do you have any other ideas?
Hannah: No.
Me: Can I offer a suggestion?
Hannah: Ok.
Me: Maybe I can finish making dinner and we can eat and clean up and then if it's still light outside we can take a night trip to the park and play in the cool evening breeze, or if we don't have the time after dinner then we can get up and go first thing in the morning after breakfast?
Hannah: Ummmm...okay. 

Of course, not every time goes so smoothly and sometimes we have to work on a solution for awhile before we are both satisfied, but it helps her.  She knows we are listening to her and that her needs/wants are important to us.  She is also learning to consider the needs/wants of others and make a compromise.

So to sum up our meltdown prevention steps:
  1. Repeat her needs/wants to her after she voices them to show we understand and care.
  2. Share our own needs/wants.
  3. Find a solution together.

There is such peace when a family works together, considering the needs and desires of one another.  My prayer is that our family and yours is able to continue to move forward, walking in that peace and learning how to help each other.  I would love to help and encourage you in your peaceful parenting journey.  Do you have any questions about our meltdown prevention or any advice to share?


  1. I love this post Amy! Thank you so much for sharing this :) I really appreciate your ideas on saying yes, I have become more of a yes mother over the years. I think ideas about when we should eat and sleep have been imposed upon us we often re-hash them without consideration. So much conditioning gets passed down unconciously. I really love (and am inspired by) your mindfullness.
    Seraphina is my little bull in a china shop :) She used to have meltdowns but not so much now. She is more stubborn, dig her heels in, super independent (wanting to do things she is not developmentally ready for such as climbing incredibly high in the trees with her older friends and scraping off the skin on her tummy as she falls while trying to get down) It's a balancing act, trying to give her autonomy so that she can find her own natural limits and explore her adventurous personality while also keeping her safe. She also refuses to sit down and do any kind of school work what so ever and doesn't like any interferance with her own plans for the day :) This means most of her day is spent playing, "making inventions" trampolining, cycling and crafting. I'm fine with this :)
    Matilda is very emotional. Incredibly, kind, gentle, compassionate and giving, so very cuddly and loving caring for all creatures including plants etc.... Yet she can't handle disapointment at all. Today she couldn't find a picture she wanted to colour in ( it was very specific of course and could not be found anywhere online) no substitute would do, she wanted her own special picture. Tears followed, and lots of protesting and "why did this happen to me. I always loose things, someone must have taken it!" I took her to the sofa, cuddled her up with a blanket ( physical comfort always seems to help calm her) I told her how sorry I was and how unfair it seemed and how sometimes these things happen to me too and how frustrating it can be. I told her that she could try to draw a picture just like it which would be even more special because it would be all hers and how we would put it up on the wall when she was finished, then I made her a cup of tea asking her which one she would like and which cup she would like it in.
    I find that when I really embrace their hurting with love and joy that I can be the one to comfort them rather than simply trying to stop the crying etc as quick as poss, they calm down far more quickly. Sometimes they are just a lot like us grown ups, they just want to be heard and validated. I don't want my girls to ever feel ashamed for their natural feelings.
    I do have boudaries for how they express their feelings though and there are consequences for hurting anyone else verbally or physically.
    Ususally the consequence will be asking all parties involved (both the provoker and the provoked) to go into their rooms to have some time to chill out and think about the situation more clearly. Although I do validate them in as much as I say I understand why so and so made them cross.
    If a child is getting into a pattern of provoking or bossing their siblings I'll try to spend some extra time with them in the evening doing something special just one on one.
    Even just 15 minutes one on one time can make such a difference. Connection is such a big key to all of this I've found.
    I love the way you connect with your kids and create a safe and warm environment for them :)
    Your little Hannah is just perfect.

    1. i love this suzy, thank you. love hearing about your interactions with your girls. seems we do so much of the same. connection is such a big key, you are so right.

  2. Wow that was a super long comment!

  3. Jim and I have been learning reflective listening in marriage counseling, and what you offer, here, is along those lines. I appreciate it b/c I have noticed that it does work with the kids, even just the repeating back part. Maybe it would help everyone in the whole world to know someone is listening. I think--in my heart--I may have some of this child of yours in me. So much love to you.