We had the meltdown of all meltdowns today from Monkey at the golf club, all because he didn’t want to change out of his dirty wet golf shirt. I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with such an epic meltdown in a public place.
We were planning to have a nice family dinner after a lovely afternoon down at Monkey’s favourite place, the golf club. However he seemed to be a bit off after his pre-dinner bathroom break, a bit highly strung and anxious. Telling him we needed to change his shirt seemed to be the last straw, he absolutely did not want to take that shirt off. I could see it escalating at the restaurant table so I took him into a quiet bathroom where we had the space away from others to work through it. There were tears, a lot of them. There was screaming, loud screaming. There was thrashing and pushing and what appeared to be a generally out of control kid.
It would have been easy to scream back. It would have been easy to yell at him to be quiet and not disturb the other people in the club or the bathroom. It would have been easy to just ignore his protests and proceed with forcibly changing him out of his wet clothes.
But that was not what he needed and that is not what our relationship is built on.
Throughout the whole episode I worked very hard on keeping my cool, remembering everything I had learnt in the Love Parenting UAE Toddler Calm workshop I attended recently and trying to help him work through what were clearly very overwhelming emotions. Such emotions may have seemed entirely unnecessary and unwarranted in the situation when viewed by an adult but that didn’t mean they weren’t valid or real for Monkey.
It was clearly not just about the shirt, as much as he loves that shirt. And he wasn’t doing it to be difficult or to challenge me for the sake of it. It didn’t help that he was tired from not napping properly earlier and he was tired and hungry after all the golf practice and sun. He needed some help to get through this emotional episode so we could then get back to the table and address his other needs of food and rest.
My child is not giving me a hard time, he is having a hard time.
So I got down on his level, I spoke to him as calmly as I could manage, I held him, I reassured him, I let him have his thrashing moments to work it out of his system. When he pulled the clean shirt off, I offered him help to put it back on again, I offered him the option of wearing no shirt at all. I didn’t try to rush the process, I focussed completely on Monkey and paid no attention to the women coming in and out of the bathrooms – this wasn’t about them, it was about him; there was no room here for their opinions and whether they considered me to be properly disciplining my tantruming child. There was also no room here for my emotions, his own emotions were already too much for Monkey to handle, he couldn’t deal with mine on top.
“Her hard time is harder than my hard time.” www.peacefulparentsconfidentkids.com
This is what he needed. This is the kind of thing our relationship is built on. I am his mother. He trusts me to be there for him. To look after him. To love him. Not just when he is happy and contented but also when he is troubled and struggling to deal with emotions bigger than himself. I am bigger than him. I can handle his emotions. I can help him work through them. And I can let him know that I am always there for him, no matter how much he might push me away or thrash at me, I will always there.
While he still didn’t put the clean shirt on happily or willingly, when it was all finally over he was wearing the clean Tshirt and even with a tear stained face he walked out of that bathroom calmly, his little hand clutching my much bigger hand.
We then proceeded to have a calm family dinner where he ate all his food while sitting with me, hugging me and kissing me throughout. There is no doubt in my mind that had I taken a different approach to the meltdown dinner would have gone very differently and, worse still, our relationship would have been in a very different place. To top it off, the whole family day out would have been written off as a disaster never to be repeated again.
I am so glad that I had the awareness of Toddler Calm and gentle parenting techniques to apply in this situation and, probably just as importantly, that I had been afforded a lie in this morning so was in a better position myself to apply them when called on. There is nothing like tiredness to deplete the patience reserves required to keep calm in a toddler tantrum situation.
This is the first time I have had to deal with a full on tantruming situation since I took the Toddler Calm workshop and it’s been a bit of a lightbulb moment for me. The traditional, authoritarian approach to discipline doesn’t suit me and I don’t think it suits Monkey. He is a sensitive soul at heart and I could clearly see from this episode how both he and our relationship has benefitted from this calmer parenting approach. While I can’t promise I will always have such reserves of time and patience when faced with an epic meltdown, I will try to remember how this went down and how both of us felt at the end of it. I will also try to remember to pack a spare golf shirt next time to avoid this same tantrum at least – live and learn!
If you are interested in learning more about Toddler Calm and the workshops run by Love Parenting UAE check out their Facebook page. I definitely recommend them.
Have you ever found yourself dealing with an epic tantrum in public? How did you deal with it? Leave me a message below, I would love to hear from you.