It is normal and developmentally appropriate for children’s behaviors and actions to challenge us when they are tired, hungry, afraid, learning independence or, even, excited. We can use these moments to teach them how to regulate responses and actions over time.

Foster Connection

  • Nurture your child’s interests and hobbies.
  • Offer meaningful social interactions with other children to help build connections, cooperation skills, and sharing.
  • After a tough day or tough moment, reflect back with your child once they’ve calmed down.

Offer Reasonable & Related Consequences

Reasonable and related consequences can actually help teach children responsibility for their actions and prevent future behaviors from reoccurring.

  • Give the choice in a CALM TONE: “Would you like to follow instructions or have this consequence?”
  • Make sure consequences are reasonable and something you can follow through with. Also remember, sometimes natural consequences are our best teacher.
  • Once the consequence is over, give your child the chance to engage in a more acceptable behavior, and praise them for it.

When your child gets upset

The most important thing to remember is that crying and meltdowns aren’t “bad behavior” and really don’t require discipline. In fact, discipline often makes kids more upset and escalates things further. Although unpleasant to experience or observe, crying and meltdowns are normal responses to being stressed, overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or upset.

Here are some things you can do to help in these moments:

  • Make sure there are no unmet needs, such as being hungry, hot, tired, scared, injured or uncomfortable.
  • Try redirecting the child’s attention to an activity they enjoy or a simple task to help them regulate.
  • If that doesn’t work, and you need to remain firm in order to provide structure or teach an appropriate lesson or behavior, it’s okay to let them cry.
  • Calmly and supportively sit with them through the emotion. Being a safe presence during these moments helps kids learn how to regulate big, overwhelming emotions over time.
  • Just like adults, children will likely feel better once they’ve let the feelings rise and subside. Afterward, try asking: “I’m sorry you were so upset. Do you feel better now?”
  • Over time, after what might be many meltdowns, children will start to develop the skills to regulate their responses to overwhelming emotions.

acknowledge the Positive!

  • Genuinely thank your child for helping out with a chore or for being gentle and caring.
  • Offer simple step-by-step tasks for your child to do, and thank them for helping.
  • Set a path for success with a routine that helps keep your child on track, like a specific bedtime, bath time and mealtimes.
  • Prioritize one-on-one, quality time with your child to foster connection and help them feel valued and supported.
  • State the action you want to see (Please, put away your clothes), instead of what you don’t want to see (Stop making a mess).