Ah, meltdowns. Your child is bound to have one at least once a day, am I right? For my kids, it usually involves some combination of screaming, crying, yelling and perhaps arms or legs flailing. It’s usually enough to get my blood boiling, and while my first instinct might be to discipline my child, perhaps part of the solution is to give myself a time-out.
One big symptom of my depression is irritability, and when I’m having a tough day with my emotions it’s quite easy for me to feel irritated by just about anything. Add to the mix my children misbehaving or throwing a fit and I usually don’t respond to the situation very well.
A good step has been acknowledging this aspect of my depression and figuring out a way to keep it in check. While I do believe I need to teach my son and daughter the consequences to their actions when they’re behaving badly, I also realize that there have been times I’ve overreacted because of my emotional state.
In general, though, I do think that in stressful situations with our kids, us parents tend to react without thinking, which is why I believe that sometimes parents taking a time-out is a good idea. Whether it’s as short as taking a few deep breaths and counting to 10 or sitting somewhere quietly to be alone with your thoughts, giving yourself a chance to assess what’s happening and how to handle it can often make a world of difference.
I have noticed that I’ve been able to take a more effective approach to tackle a stressful moment with either of my kids when I’ve given myself the opportunity to get calm before reacting to their behaviour. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect and still experience times when I lose my shit, but I now can see the difference in how my children respond to me when I match them temper for temper versus when I keep my cool.
One good example that stands out for me is a time when my daughter had an epic meltdown and she had been particularly pushing my buttons that day. I had my final straw when she hit me while we were leaving the public library because she didn’t want to go home yet. I remained calm at that moment but I was furious and asked her not to talk to me during the drive home. Once at the house I told her that we were both going in a time-out to calm down. This ended up being a great decision because we were able to have a good talk without anger or yelling.
What I’ve learned from doing this is that taking a time-out for myself allows me to better communicate with my children. When I respond out of calmness rather than out of frustration I am able to handle the situation in a way that my kids can express how they feel and we can together come up with a solution to the problem.
So the next time your child is misbehaving or having a meltdown, take a brief moment to yourself before responding. Think of it this way: it’s not just giving you a chance to think before you speak, it’s also allowing you to demonstrate to your children how healthy communicating works. And that, my friends, is a parenting win.