Question: How do I deal with meltdowns in public? How do I deal with strangers making comments or judging me?
Calm Dad Says: Remember that as a parent, your primary responsibility is not how your child behaves, but how YOU behave. The truth is that no matter how great a parent you are, you cannot always control your child’s (or spouse’s!) behavior. But you can always control your emotions. The quickest way to change your child’s behavior is to first control your own.
If you react emotionally out of embarrassment or guilt, your tension will escalate the situation. How many times have we yelled, “I don’t have time for your tantrum right now!” as if our kids are going to glance at their watch and say, “Oh, do you want to reschedule, Mom?” Put out the emotional fire and be the calm, immovable rock they can count on.
If you allow another person’s comment or opinion to cause you to snap at your kids, you are giving some stranger power over your emotions and relationships. Do not give anyone that power. You don’t owe anyone an answer. In the end, the relationship with your child is most important. And when your child sees that you can remain calm and emotionally available to them, even when others are giving dismissive glances, they will feel safe and secure.
Calm Kid Says: When I’m upset and freaking out, it’s usually because I’m feeling out of control of the situation. I don’t need my parents freaking out. That just makes me more upset because now no one is in control of themselves, and it’s just a big scream-fest or threat-fest. When they are yelling or just glaring down at me, it’s not safe to even apologize. What I really need when I’m upset is for my parents to model calm and lead me into a calmer place.
I remember when I was little and I’d throw a tantrum at the playground in front of all the other kids and parents. My Dad would sit down, cross his legs and just say, “You can throw a tantrum if you want. If you do, do it with excellence. But if you want to figure out a better way to deal with feeling disappointed, I’ll go swing with you and we can talk about it.” That helped me to know there was a different way and he wasn’t going to go ballistic on me. And that’s why I trust him when I have teenage issues.
Celebrate Calm Founder Kirk Martin and his son, Casey (17), have trained over 100,000 parents, teachers and kids how to control their emotions through their newsletter, radio show and workshops. Sign up for their newsletter, say hi and learn more about their family-friendly programs at www.CelebrateCalm.com.