The Science of Parenting

In the Heat of a Meltdown | Ep. 7

April 23, 2020 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Season 1 Episode 7
The Science of Parenting
In the Heat of a Meltdown | Ep. 7
Show Notes Transcript

Fill your parenting toolbox with techniques for when emotions are high to help move kids from meltdown to calm down. 

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Lori Hayungs:

Hey, welcome . You know, I've got to just admit something a second before we start. I totally danced into that background. Like , dancing. Anyway, welcome. Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect you with research-based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm L ori Hayungs, parent of three in three different life stages, launched, in college, and in high school and I am a parenting educator.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two young children with their own quirks, and I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Hayungs:

So today we have exciting news, exciting, exciting. We are talking about how to manage ourselves in the heat of those meltdowns. How do we keep it all together when everything else is out of control, falling apart, falling apart.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And you know, last week we were talking about anticipating and understanding those meltdowns and tantrums and today's almost kind of part two. Okay, you maybe anticipated and you're prepared but can't fight them all. I shouldn't say fight, but meltdowns are going to happen. Absolutely. Right?

Lori Hayungs:

Right. And you know, last week I kept thinking, okay, so understanding and prevention and I didn't want anyone to think that, you know, oh, well, they're parenting educators so meltdowns never happened for them. and I think, right. They totally happened and, oh, that happened. Yeah. But yeah, definitely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So you have more experience in this area. I mean, one , your kids are older, but you also, you know, look at your parenting education experience. Is there a meltdown or a tantrum in your e xperience, the worst one that comes to mind for you?

Lori Hayungs:

So, you know, we chatted about this just a little bit and I thought, oh gosh, you know, I don't want to use one from my own kids or you know, I've had lots of opportunities to do some parent consultations and observations and I still think I have to go back to my own and just keep it real and say, well, okay . The worst one was when one of my children had the most epic meltdown at a restaurant. I was so excited about eating the pancakes and the bacon and the syrup and she had the most epic meltdown and you know, even people who were there at the restaurant that day will talk about it, too . Remember that time .

Mackenzie Johnson:

Bring it up to you? Like when your kid that time. I do remember.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes, I do remember that time. And so when they bring it up, I think, you know, are they remembering it because of my parenting techniques that I used that day? Are they remembering it because I didn't keep my head or are they remembering it because it was an epic meltdown? Oh yeah. And I was.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And there's plenty of, you know, parent shaming and judging. We're going to talk about that in a future episode. Right. So those feelings are their own thing. Right. But the meltdown and tantrum itself, hard keeping our heads and especially when they're the big ones, right? I a lways picture there was this one, I don't even know what it was about, but there was one I remember that was in our kitchen before we painted it, i n the old kitchen, in the kitchen by the door. And I just remember that it went a really long time and I feel it was maybe one of the first big tantrums, y ou know, with our oldest child. Yeah, it was one of the first big ones. I w as, whoa, th is i s t he real deal. Oh, I remember tagging out, tagging in and then tagging out. It was a multiple tag, right? Your turn. And then vice versa with my partner being, you've got to he lp like we did bef ore. I t was a big one.

Lori Hayungs:

And I think that's an important thing to think about is, you know, that that epic meltdown for my example too , there was this tagging in and out and you know, the reality is that we don't all have that option of tagging in and out. And as we look at our parenting tool box, that's why we fill it and we fill it and we fill it and keep filling it because there are going to be times where we're on our own. And you know, we've got to dig into that tool box and be ready for being on our own, wherever it is. We might be alone in a store, we might be alone in an airport, you know? And so , yeah, it's great to recognize that we sometimes have those opportunities to tag in and out with friends and family members. But in those times that we don't, we also can be prepared for those, too . Yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, I was raised by a single parent, you know, so most of the time, unless we happened to be somewhere with family or friends, there was nobody to tag out to . And so yeah, this is about having that toolbox. And I think that's why we believe so strongly at The Science of Parenting, you know, we talk about pluralistic parenting or basically there's more than one way to raise great kids. And there's more than one way to handle a meltdown, whether you have somebody to tag out to , whether you don't , whether you're intense like me or cool, calm, and collected like you. Yeah, you're right. Fill that toolbox.

Lori Hayungs:

Fill that toolbox . So let's start with some research. Right. All right, so this kind of research is more for us as the adults in this situation here. So this reinforces some of the things we've looked at before. According to the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, young children respond to and process their emotional experiences differently than adults and older children. So, okay, that totally makes sense. They respond differently because their brains aren't all set up yet . We talked about that last week. So neuroscience research tells us that there's this set of underlying core capabilities that adults use. We have this core set of things that we tap into to parent effectively. And what we look at as adults is planning. Okay? So that's kind of what we're doing here at The Science of Parenting is helping you plan, focus. I think there's some Stop. Breathe. Talk. in there. Self-control again. Awareness. We talked last week about prevention and understanding. That's awareness. Oh , here's a tough one though. Flexibility. So let me go through those again. We as adults have a different set of experiences that we can rely on including planning, focused, self-control , awareness and flexibility.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Which are all skills. I don't always necessarily associate it with my parenting, right? I know that I can. I focus at work or I plan an event with family, you know, family members. But those are skills that we do. We use definitely in parenting and in other situations, but are skills o ur kids don't necessarily have or are developing, I should say.

Lori Hayungs:

Right. They're absolutely developing. And with that being said, that means that it's important for us not to have these expectations that they have these five skills. Like even on the teenagers, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yup. Yup. It's still a work in progress.

Lori Hayungs:

A work in progress. They might have some planning. They might have some focus. They might have some self control today, but not tomorrow. They might have some awareness or none at all. Flexibility. That's a moving target, right? Oh yeah, yeah. So what do we do?

Mackenzie Johnson:

What did we do? What are we going to do? I have these skills, the things that I think I can do most of the time. Can you think of a time when you've recently, you know, like as the adult and the interaction that you've recently had. As a writer and researcher, loves to say reregulate. So because we have those skills like reregulating, can you think of a recent example for you?

Lori Hayungs:

So yes, my children are older and yes, I do still have to reregulate and I absolutely remember sending a text to another adult that basically said, I'm going to need to sleep on this before I respond to the particular child. Yeah. So I was frustrated and upset and I felt like, you know, the child wasn't meeting some expectations I had for their age and I needed to reregulate. And so instead of texting back, instead of calling the child , I literally texted a friend of mine and said, this is how I'm feeling and I need to sleep on this. So that's my older child example of saying, okay, the child was not in imminent danger and they could wait for me to decide how I was going to respond. And I think that's been a really important thing for me, is thinking, okay, I need to sleep on this one. How about you?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I actually think I might go to the opposite end of the spectrum here. You're talking about your older kids. I might go down to my infant that, yeah , there have been times, especially I think of on maternity leave. But yeah, there's been times when I have done every single thing I can think of to help you. You're fed. You're changed. I tried to help you fall asleep. I've done everything I can think of and I'm maxed. I can't do anything else and I don't know how to help you. And I am above my head, I'm under the water in my head. And so yeah, my infant can't figure it out. They don't have the planning, the focus, you know, they don't, right? I've had to lay my child down and you're safe, you're somewhere, you're not going to be hurt. And yes, the crying is not ideal, but I have to walk away so I can come back and soothe you and help you. Right now, I can't. Right . I had to walk away and come back.

Lori Hayungs:

I love the science behind that because I'm kind of a science nerd, you know. So the science, there is a little science behind that that talks about your heart rhythm. And so you and your brain might be saying, I can be calm, cool, collected, I can be calm, cool and collected. Right? I've got a smile on my face. Right? I'm smiling. I'm sorry, but your heart literally is still beating and it's sending out these rhythms. And so the baby, that infant can tell, they can feel that and their heart feels your heart. And so I love that you use that as an example and we didn't even talk about this before because I can say this is all about those heart rhythms and how we literally have to figure out a way to reregulate our heart. The rhythms that are coming off of our beating heart and slow that heart rate down, reregulate ourselves and go back and soothe that crying infant.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You know, what's ironic is when I tend to do stuff like that, if I walk away in the heat of a meltdown or I couldn't help soothe my infant, then I had to walk away and leave them crying, I experienced some guilt, feeling like I did it wrong. And I feel like I'm probably not the only one who thinks if I had to take a break or I couldn't help them, that it feels like a failure in that moment. But, oh, that's a good thing, right?

Lori Hayungs:

You get the champion medal for recognizing, I need to reregulate. Right. They are safe, they're secure. I will reregulate and come back. And that was medal worthy.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Good news. Good news for me because I'm in last place sometimes . Not that there's competition, but no.

Lori Hayungs:

Okay, so that's excellent. It leads us right into the next research, the next one is about what's happening then during the brain in the meltdown.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Which is, this is so up your alley, you're like the queen of anatomy and brain development, all those things and how they fit in parenting.

Lori Hayungs:

I'm such a nerd when it comes to the brain. I love the brain, but more importantly, I love digging into why children behave the way that they do, why people behave the way that they do. And then going back to what we said last week, it's because there's a reason. So I've got to find that reason. There's a reason. So Michigan State Extension, we've found some information from them. They were quoting some work by Siegel and Bryson and the authors wrote the Whole Brain Child. And I love their explanation of the concept of this upstairs and downstairs of your brain, right? So the upstairs, if you think about the a two story house, right? So the upstairs is, is where the thinking happens and it's where things like decision making and planning and focus happen and the harder , those harder skills, right? You got to pay attention to those things and those harder skills. So the downstairs brain then is when you think about how you built the house, he had to build the downstairs first. All right ? Just start there. The downstairs brain, that's where your brain starts to grow. Well, what are some of those first things that happen in our brain? Our brain has to put together all the neurons and all the roads that help us breathe, that help us, you know, open and open and shut our eyes that help us express emotions. Because as a baby, you know, we needed those emotions to tell you what we want. Yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You know, why my infant's crying? Right?

Lori Hayungs:

They don't have to learn how to use the top, the upstairs brain. They don't need to know. Like Barb Dunn Swanson , she's our writer, says, they don't need to know how to write a paper, but they do know how to cry because when they cry, it's telling you, I'm hungry, I'm cold, I need something. Right? So that downstairs brain is where all that happens. Oh yeah. When it comes to how our brain is put together and in the middle of that meltdown , essentially what happens is our body is so smart. Our body is so smart and it says, oh my goodness, all systems are being attacked by this meltdown. We must survive in order to survive all functions, all power, all energy. We need to zoom to the downstairs brain and protect things down there. Oh yeah. It leaves the upstairs brain empty, unattended, unattended. There's no thinking happening in the upstairs brain when we're in the middle of a meltdown because all energy, power, and system focus is in that downstairs brain. We have to breathe when we're having a meltdown , right? We have to express emotion when we're having a meltdown and so everything is happening in the downstairs brain. The upstairs brain is empty. There is no logical thought happening.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So is that why we say, flip your lid? Yeah. Right, right. Flip your lid.

Lori Hayungs:

It is so unattended and the idea that we could possibly reason with someone in the middle of a meltdown just doesn't even make sense because there's no one in their upstairs brain to reason with, regardless of their age.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes. And so when my child asked to watch a show and I say, no, you know, we're doing something else or whatever. And they're furious often, if this happens and I'm, oh, you know, but we're going to do this or here's these reasons why this is logical. It doesn't make sense for me to say, yes, you can watch a show when bedtime's in five minutes. Come on, this is logical. But, oh, no one there to hear it. No one in that top upstairs brain to hear it.

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah, all systems are on those life sustaining functions. You know, everything is hardwired early on. That means the younger the child, the more hardwired that downstairs brain is and the faster they go to that brain. Now we also know that when we have different personalities and different temperaments, some of us end up down in that downstairs brain way quicker than others.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I'm a sprint. I'm a sprint down the stairs.

Lori Hayungs:

That picture in my head, yeah, I love it. And I think that when we look at this episode of keeping our head in the middle of the meltdown and looking at we as the adults. Reminder, we are the adults. So we're the one that has to figure out how we first manage ourself in the meltdown because we can't possibly help the child if we can't help ourself.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You've told me something, you know, we've had conversations about that I'm an intense temperament and you're a little more cool, calm and collected. And I think something that's helped me as a parent, my partner is also a little more cool, calm, collected kind of style. And sometimes I feel like I'm not doing it right. Like, I'm bad at this. But you've reminded me that it's not about who is good or bad. Right? And it's not that being intense is bad. Intensity helps me in a lot of other ways, but the cool, calm and collected might be helpful in this particular situation. But it's not good and bad. Right?

Lori Hayungs:

Right. Exactly. No, when you look at the individual differences, and this was something that I think I probably recognized it first when I was teaching preschool and my coworker and I were very different in our temperaments, which meant that when there was mayhem in our room and there were many strong emotions happening, my calm, cool, collected temperament was the person who kind of took on those heated emotional moments. And she had fabulous skills in other areas and that's when she shone. And so it wasn't that one of us was, you know, better or worse or, you know, not good or good. That wasn't it. We recognized right away that in our particular situation, I could regulate myself better when it came to those heated moments. And so I could model to the children better what behaviors I wanted them to have. Again, bringing in the heart, right? They didn't feel my heart beating as fast as they felt hers beat frankly. So, yeah , we have enough parent shaming going on in this world. We do not need to shame ourselves when we recognize that someone else can help better with this meltdown.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. And I think that might be part of why I have become, as I call it, a breather. Because I know I am getting there in recognizing that I might sprint to that downstairs brain faster than I maybe should or hope I do, you know, faster than some others. And so I do have to have that toolbox. And for me, my go to, my downstairs brain, has learned to take a breath, take a breath. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lori Hayungs:

So that kinda brings us again right into our next research idea, which is looking at some resources from zero to three. One of my very favorite places to go for helping us understand some strategies, and so they offer us six strategies. I'm going to kind of walk through these a little bit and let you pop in and out as you think. Or you know me well enough. If you're like, Lori , excuse me, you need to share. So the first one is to keep yourself calm and present in the face of the tantrum. So keep yourself calm and present in the face of the tantrum.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Dibs. Yeah. Stop. Breathe. Talk. Right? That's our favorite for a reason. Stop. Breath. Talk. helps us be that calm in that storm or calm in that chaos of that meltdown, right? We talked about we have the skills, we have the control and Stop. Breathe. Talk. is a way to help us stay there. Stay in that room . Yeah, absolutely or get back to that place . We need to go back to those stairs.

Lori Hayungs:

So the second one then is to validate your child's feelings and perspective. We've talked about that in the last couple of weeks is letting them know that, I know you've got these big feelings and you look really frustrated and angry. Just validating them.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I repeat, so even if my child doesn't say, you know, I'm mad, I say, you're mad. You're mad that I said it's time to go. You want to keep working on that and I'm not assigning any judgment to it. And I don't always get it right, but I see that you're mad and I understand why. Right?

Lori Hayungs:

And that's totally frustrating and that's definitely right in line with the next step, which is to honor their feelings while holding the limit. You know, we still have to leave. Last week we talked about, you still have to buckle the seat belt, right? I'm honoring your feelings that you don't like this, but we still have to buckle the seat belt. This one, I think, is a really important piece as well. So offering connection, physical comfort or an alternate activity. We had some great discussion with our writer Barb Dunn Swanson about this offering connection, physical comfort or an alternative activity. One of the things, okay, I get dibs here. So we talked about how sometimes we'll hear people say things like, when you're done crying, come back and we will when you're done. You know the child is being asked to regulate themselves. The child is being asked to calm down, to make themselves calm down. But this step and this suggestion says offer connection and physical comfort. And sometimes I think that it really is up to us to help them down. We need to help them down. Now we can't help them down if we are not down ourselves. So first we need to regulate ourselves and then we do need to help them come down. It's easy for us to just say, you go over there and when you're done crying, you come back. But the really hard thing would be for us to take that on and say, you know what, I'm g oing t o c alm down over here. When I'm calm, I'm going to help you calm down.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, yeah , yeah. And that connection piece of it too, right? That your feelings, sometimes it sends the message if we just send them away, that your feelings make me not like you. I don't want to be with you when you have these feelings. All right? And that's not really the message we want to send with our kids. You're allowed to be mad. You're allowed to do those things. And so that reconnection of, do you need a hug? Do you need help? But I do think there's a flip side to this, too, because of some of the other resources that we talk about. We also debated about putting the American Academy of Pediatrics list here. They have some great suggestions, too, so you can check that out if you want. But they talked about ignoring as a strategy. So these are kind of opposites, offering that connection or ignoring them. But there are times when ignoring might be the appropriate response. Right?

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

On our last episode we talked about anticipating and you've thought about what the trigger is. If you think the trigger could be that your child is seeking attention and that's what the tantrum is about, it might be appropriate to ignore the tantrum. So there are times when there might be one or the other, right?

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. That's why we were offering them to both here to put in your toolbox and pull them out when you need to. You know , in fact, I think that when we do our live show, we're going to offer up this idea and strategy of how do we ignore and what happens when we don't ignore and see. I guess you'll have to come back and be with us live.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And how to decide which one. Right .

Lori Hayungs:

So the next step then is to model and share how to take a break. So again, that idea of model it, show them. I mean, we all know that children are our best imitators, right? So how about if we let them imitate us becoming calm, cool and collected. Taking that deep breath, blowing it out and making it such an obvious deep breath that our shoulders rise and fall, you know, or that they hear us breathe that breath in and out. You know, it's sitting with them as they're melting and just calming our own self can help calm them. So modeling and sharing how to take a break.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think sometimes I feel like I make it sound like I get it right all the time. I don't, I don't. But you know, I said bedtime before, it's hard for us sometimes. And so if there's full meltdown going on, we maybe are heading down this path that we didn't want to be down. We're both frustrated, whatever, whatever. We might be a decent way into the meltdown before I get this right. Right. We might be far enough down this road and then it might be, okay, I'm starting to maybe raise my voice or, you know, feel so mad that I can't reason and so I need to go to my room and take a break. Or sometimes I think we need to start over. And part of it is because I've gotten so mad and now even when you're not doing something that's that bad, I'm so mad about it. Right? And so even sometimes it's not physically leaving, right? Because if you don't have anyone to take out to or safety, you know, whatever those things might be, we need a restart. And a lot of times, actually, if I think of it, we might have that little physical connection of, we need to restart. Can I have a hug ? Yeah. It is what it is. It's hard because I need to Stop. Breathe. Talk.

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah. Yeah. And really think about what that just showed your child. We're not perfect as adults. No . And we cannot keep up this facade that we actually think that we are because what our child might believe is that they have to be perfect, too . I mean, there is lots of room for error and teaching. So that the last one then, is the offering an acceptable way to get the mad out? So that's a great way to also model what are some acceptable ways to get the mad out.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Can I tell you one that I think I maybe sent you on Snapchat the night that I did this? So toddler, full meltdown, yelling in the house. I had a really bad headache and my toddler just needed to sing and yell and not even things that were bad, just really needed the noise. And I was like, please be quiet. Please be quiet, please. You know, on repeat. I finally was like, do you feel like you need to yell? Are you needing to yell and scream? And yes was her response. And I was like, you know where we could do that? If you want to stand on the steps, our front steps, and if you need to yell , we can go outside and you can use your outside voice. And it was winter, it was cold outside but not inappropriately negative below. So we got on her winter coat. I could see. Our stairs are in the center of our house. So I sat on the inside stairs and I could see her out the front door. And she did she yell. Do you remember that?

Lori Hayungs:

I do. I love that . Oh my gosh. I can just save this example forever cause this is a perfect example.

Mackenzie Johnson:

But she needed to get the mad out, she needed to yell, she needed to get it out. And then as we escalated like please stop. No, I want to yell . Please stop. No, I want to yell . As we escalated, you can get the mad out on the front steps. That's great. We can do that, right?

Lori Hayungs:

Yes. Other ways to get the mad out. You know, you said one thing already, asking for a hug. Can I have a hug? Sometimes you just need to say, I need a hug c ause I need to get the mad out. And it doesn't have to be this big loud, angry kind of a thing. It can be, I need a hug. I g otta pull this mad out of me right now.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Or even the simple stuff like you can shake it out. You know , being kind of silly to get the mad out, right? Yeah . Sometimes that physical movement helps us get the mad out. Yeah.

Lori Hayungs:

We used to have dance parties in our preschool classroom. We would toss on the record player. Do y'all know what the record player is? Is the record player on? And we would dance it out. But then at the end, we would do a little deep breathing and you know, I didn't know yoga, the kids' yoga stuff at that time, but we would just slowly turn the volume down, and then we would have some deep breathing and boy, we didn't only get the mad out, we got the angsties out and we got pinchies out. We got it out.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So that's our list, right?

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah, that's the list .

Mackenzie Johnson:

You're a parent of three. They give us lots of strategies for getting through surviving a meltdown with a child. And what would you say that's your go-to? know I said I'm a breather. Like that is a thing that I've gotten into a habit of.

Lori Hayungs:

You know, I guess I would say that I have probably used them all depending on the child, depending on their age and depending on their situation, but also depending on how full or empty my current tolerance bucket was. So you've heard me talk about my tolerance, right ? So I envision that I have this bucket that is called my tolerance bucket. And it's either full or empty or midway in between. Right? And so, you know, every time there's things that bug me, my tolerance bucket tips a little bit more and a little bit more. And so they know . So I was right, I have zero tolerance and mommy needs a break. And so I would say that given those strategies, I've done and used them all and you know, look at my children and I think. Okay. So for one of them, you know, I definitely modeled more, for another one I had to offer the acceptable way I teach them how to get them mad out, for another, I really needed to validate what they were feeling and again, not all the same time and not all the same ages and in just in different ways, so I would say I don't have a go to, I've got GoTos. Go to is plural.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay. Yeah . Well, and we talked about if you don't have the option to tag out, that your toolbox needs to be full for that reason, right. Cause their age will change, their mood might change, which child you're helping might change. If you have more than one, fill that toolbox and hopefully that's what we're doing with our list full.

Lori Hayungs:

Fill away, fill away and come back next week when we're live and fill some more, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. Which kind of brings us to one of our last segments. We call it your reality. And so as we were putting together this episode, what if we had this formula or this step plan? And so I came up with that and I really, really wanted it to be an acronym. It's not, it's super not. Okay. So in the heat of the moment, you know, when meltdowns or tantrums are happening, I came up with five steps.

Lori Hayungs:

All right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

First one being to identify what might be triggering the meltdown, right? So this requires your upstairs brain, requires that thinking, processing, planning focus. What might be triggering the meltdown, hungry, angry, lonely, tired, ill, frustrated, whatever it might be, and then try to anticipate the meltdown. So once we figured out kind of those common triggers, see if we can help see it coming. And so we talked about some tools for that in our last episode, the third one is to plan how you will get through the tantrum. So, if you can't remember all six in your toolbox, think about which one might be a quick go to while you're learning, right? The tool I keep in my pocket. M y o ther t oolbox might be over my back, but this one's in my pocket. So your plan for getting through it, maybe the idea is Stop. Breathe. Talk. Right. We love that one. The fourth one is to wait to talk until we're calm, r ight? Going back to research, bullet number two is that upstairs, downstairs. They can't reason in the heat of it, and so yes, it isn't logical. And disproportionate, right? A tantrum is disproportionate. We talked about that disproportionate reaction. So wait to talk until everyone's c alm, you and your child. And the fifth one is, okay, we got through the meltdown, we're in the car, we're not in the grocery store anymore, but the fifth one is actually to teach what to do instead or teach for next time. You know, you felt really mad when I said we couldn't get that at the store. What could we do next time when we feel like that, you know, and for an older child t hat can be talking through that. You know, you felt really mad when I said no, you couldn't go to that thing, you know? And so it's a ll r ight if you're mad, you can be.

Lori Hayungs:

That is actually a conversation I had probably within the last month with a parent of an elementary school aged child. Okay, let's ask them what could they do instead, what would they do instead? And those parents said, gosh, I never thought about asking them for what they thought. And I'm like, yeah , absolutely. Put it back on them. Ask them.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Those are my five steps. Identify the trigger, anticipate, have your own plan - maybe Stop. Breath. Talk. - wait until everyone's calm, and teach what to do instead. So that's an acronym. Sure. Do you want me to say that again? So there's not one, but yeah .

Lori Hayungs:

Well, you know, maybe next time. Did we leave any time for Mackenzie or were we successfully able to avoid? The Stop. Breathe. Talk. questions have not been that hard yet, so , okay. All right, we just jinxed it . Yeah.

Mackenzie DeJong:

So I have a question and oh yeah, it's Stop. Breath. Talk. time. I have a question and the question I'm asking is totally from my own brain, but it's a totally, like I'm an aunt , I see other people with, you know, parents of kids or I am out in public and I see this happening as "a bystander." And I think that I'm going to send this probably to Lori first, just from all of the experience that you've had working with parents of preschoolers and all of that experience. But as a bystander, if I see someone dealing with their child's meltdown, what do I do? Do I step in? Do I say something? Are there tools that I can use? Is the answer no? But that's totally a me question coming from me, wondering question.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, sure. She said you first.

Lori Hayungs:

A couple of examples that happened to me or have happened to other professionals that I've worked with , so I think that you really have to, I said this last week, you have to listen to your gut. I honestly believe that there are times where you need to listen to your gut. And so in talking with another professional, one time she shared a situation where she was actually in a parking lot and she was feeling like the child was having a meltdown and that the adult that was with the child was really struggling. And she said, you know, Lori , it was uncomfortable, but I had to listen to my gut and go up and say, is there something I can help you with? And she said, that is exactly how I said it. Is there a way that I can help you? And she said, I made sure that the way I said it was letting that person know I was genuinely interested in helping them because that person said, I was a parent of four kids. I have been there. So, you know, that's one example. And the second example, I think, is maybe if there's an opportunity to , sometimes I'll bring humor into a situation to help break the ice. That's probably my go to technique is to somehow find a way to humor things up in a way that shows someone else that I'm not being judgemental , but I'm offering my help or a way to get that calm, cool and collected Lori, you know , heart in there. So did I answer your question yet? Can I stop talking?

Mackenzie DeJong:

Oh, totally. I think the answer is, I heard, listen to your gut. I heard, maybe if you do it nicely, just support and support and maybe use a little humor. But I have a question then as a followup . I'm a very sarcastic person. Can I just throw in some sarcasm in that situation?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Maybe not, but it's something I would totally do. I feel like humor might be safer than sarcasm, right? I'm a parent who has kids that are young, who are still kind of in this prime age for meltdowns? I could say even sometimes, even sometimes, you know, we might have done it differently, right? The way that parent navigated it might've been different than what I would've done. And I feel like sometimes just letting the other parent know, you were really patient. A passing comment or even if there were other things we w o uld've d one differently, unless that parent is giving you the eye, like help me? Ri ght? Or if your gut is telling you to , sometimes it's as simple as, you're doing great. Look at yo u, you ar e g rocery shopping with four kids, you're doing great. Right?

Lori Hayungs:

And even non-verbals from across the room, thumbs up, shake your head, nodding, wink that eye, you know, yeah . Mouthing, you've got this. And I think that those are the kinds of things that can help someone who is in the middle of that meltdown feel, oh wow, someone else across the room gets it. Yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And especially because we don't know where that parent's tolerance bucket is that day. Right? Maybe this is the tantrum after I have already had a terrible day and all of these things. And so, yeah, you might think, well, if you would have , right. So if I walk away down the aisle, right, someone might think, well, what are you doing? Well, today? This is outburst number...right?

Lori Hayungs:

And I do need to say that I have also been , in my lifetime, a mandatory child abuse reporter. And so there are times where, you know, as a mandatory reporter, I did have to take steps, right, because situations were definitely out of control. And so I think that that's an important piece to add is that you need to listen to your gut and when it comes to children and families and strong emotions and strong feelings, there is not one right answer there . There's not .

Mackenzie DeJong:

Even though you say there's no one right answer, I think that helped get the wheels turning in my brain. So I will stop using up your time so we can wrap things up. But thank you. Thank you. All right . Personal question.

Lori Hayungs:

Good question.

Mackenzie Johnson:

A tough one but a good one.

Lori Hayungs:

I know, they're getting tougher.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, so we kind of covered it I think. I hope. We talked through that adults have the control, right? We have more skills to navigate as parents than our kids do. We talked about that kids are beyond reasoning in the middle of that tantrum and so we need some other things in our toolbox besides telling them why that didn't make sense. We talked through some of our favorite strategies, you know, we talked through some zero to three stuff and we remind everybody, we also really love the American Academy of Pediatrics and if you wish you had heard different things than you heard in that last section on the research, go scope that out. Our job is to give you information so you can decide what makes sense for you and your family. So hopefully that's what you're getting from us.

Lori Hayungs:

Right, right. I've been really excited about this season in general, but as we've started to do it, I think I just can't wait for everyone to hear all the different research tidbits we were able to pull together. So thank you for joining us today.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, thanks for joining us on The Science of Parenting podcast. As always, remember that you can subscribe to our weekly audio podcast on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. You can watch the show on video each week and once a month, which is next week, once a month you can join us live and we'll take your comments and questions.

Lori Hayungs:

Right, so come along as we tackle the ups and downs, as we tackle the ins and outs, the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is a research-based education program hosted by Lori Hayungs and Mackenzie Johnson , produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This program is brought to you by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity.