6 ways to calm your child from a meltdown that are better than time-outs

Are time-outs taking way too long to get your child to calm down from a tantrum? Try one of these six alternatives instead!

6 ways to calm your child from a meltdown that are better than time-outs

Are time-outs taking way too long to get your child to calm down from a tantrum? Try one of these six alternatives instead!
  • Children's meltdowns are bound to happen no matter if you are the worst mom ever or mother-of-the-year. Most kids aren't cognitively developed enough to see reason, so when something doesn't make sense to them, it can result in a meltdown. They usually happen at the worst time and in the worst place. It may be hard to prevent them from happening, but there are some ways to get them to stop much better than a good old time-out. Here are six alternatives.

  • 1. Change the topic

  • If your child is fixated on something and can't seem to let go of the fact that you said no, not now, or even yes (but not in the way they wanted you to) and they start to go into tantrum mode, change the topic. It has to be a really good topic change like "What do you want for dinner?" or even better, "What do you want for dessert?" Remind them that only non-tantrum throwers get dessert and have them help you pick it out.

  • If food bribes are not your thing, talk about what they did in school, who they sat by at lunch or which Disney character is their favorite. Whatever it is you know they like, change the topic to that. It may switch them out of the tantrum faster than you know.

  • 2. Laugh

  • Be careful with this one; it may backfire on you. Some kids get even more mad when they think you are laughing at them. But if done right, laugher can often fix things in a flash. It shows them you are not mad, allows you (and them) to make light of the situation and brings them back around to reason. Try touching their nose or tickling their feet to help them shake the meltdown in a hurry.

  • 3. Give choices

  • Kid's logic is not always easy to understand, but one thing they get is a choice. When they're losing it, open-ended questions like "What can I do for you?" or "Why are you upset?" don't work. Give them a choice. "Do you want one or none?" "Do you want to leave or continue to play?" Giving them options makes them stop and pick. Not all kids will respond quickly and calmly, but give it a try and see if this can snap them out of it faster than a time-out.

  • 4. Practice meditation

  • You're most likely not going to pull out a yoga mat in the middle of aisle six while your child is screaming about wanting Cocoa Puffs, but if you practice mediation in your home with your kids, it can help you avoid meltdowns altogether. Meditation can teach how to handle hard situations, what to do when you are stressed and how to live more peacefully.

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  • When you see your child start to get upset, encourage them to take deep breaths. Ask them to close their eyes and count to 10. This can help them calm down before the meltdown gets full-blown. If anything, it will help you stay more calm during the experience.

  • 5. Use a warning system

  • Sometimes it just takes a quick reminder of what the rules are to get some kids to snap out of a tantrum. If you have made it clear what the consequences are for different misbehaviors (and you've followed through on those when needed), give them a warning. Maybe it's counting to three or giving them the death glare, or perhaps it's actually saying, "This is your one and only warning." Whatever your call sign is, use it to stop the meltdown from escalating.

  • 6. Join them

  • When all else fails, join them! We usually use this tactic at home (where it's less embarrassing) but it works nine out of 10 times. Get on the floor, pound it with your fists, close your eyes and cry! Most the time our child looks at us like we are crazy, but it gets them to stop. I like to think it is because they realize how dumb they must look doing the same thing, not because they think WE are the ones who are ridiculous. Hey, if you can't beat them, join them!

  • Kids are amazingly wonderful, but there are times that you wonder what you got yourself into! We all need some advice every now and again, so hopefully one of these time-out alternatives will help you stop a meltdown much faster than you thought possible.

Megan Shauri graduated with a bachelors in anthropology and a masters in psychology. She is a mother of twins.

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