Sometimes I think when our kids’ behavior is worse than usual or really out of control, for many of us our first instinct is to yell, threaten and ultimately punish.
You know, so we can make sure they understand just how horribly they are acting.
We do our best to make them feel really, really badly about their behavior.
Because that is the best way to make them never act that way again, right?
Because when we do this, when we blame and shame and humiliate, we don’t make our kids feel badly about their behavior.
We make them feel badly about themselves.
And you know what people do when they feel badly about themselves?
They do whatever they can to NOT feel badly about themselves.
They lash out. Or they retreat. They find ways to numb themselves.
But they don’t usually decide to accept responsibility for their actions and change their ways.
Because most of us can’t do that when we feel bad.
When we feel bad about ourselves, we aren’t in a mindset to think rationally.
Yesterday Number 7 had a really tough afternoon.
It was a Thursday which means for Number 5, 6 and 7 we have a free afternoon.
We have nowhere to go, no swim practice or anything, so we can just have a nice calm afternoon with plenty of down time or time to play or really whatever we want to do.
I look forward to Thursdays.
Usually the kids are great because they love those days after school with no plans and no rush to be anywhere.
For whatever reason though, yesterday was just not Number 7’s day.
I’m sure being tired had something to do with it.
But she had two massive meltdowns.
She’s usually the most agreeable kid out of all of them. Not yesterday. Her patience was nonexistent and everyone was annoying her and ultimately she totally lost it.
She was screaming and yelling and hysterically crying and completely out of control.
It was very hard for me not to lose it.
I really wanted to lock her in her room until she calmed herself down.
But she couldn’t calm herself down. That was part of the problem.
And as each of the two meltdowns escalated in both volume and intensity, Number 7 came closer and closer to me until she was sitting in my lap and clinging to my neck.
She was hurting for whatever reason, and she was really having a hard time reining herself in.
I could have threatened her and told her (in not so many words) to get her shit together.
I could have punished her.
I could have told her that her behavior was unacceptable and sent her to her room indefinitely.
But she made it pretty clear that she needed help.
She needed connection.
She needed empathy.
She did not need or want to be alone.
Sometimes when our kids lose it like that they can’t verbalize what the problem is.
They are certainly communicating. Just not in the way we’d like them to.
Since Number 7 was having such a rough day, I didn’t push it.
I didn’t ask her what was wrong.
I’ll wait for a better day to bring it up when there is a little distance from that afternoon and when her brain is in a better place.
She won’t forget.
How do I know?
Because last night, as I always do, I lay down next to Number 7 in her bed and sang her two songs and scratched her back. Then I gave her a kiss and a hug and said goodnight.
As I slid out of her bed she said to me,
“Yes,” I answered.
“I’m sorry I acted so crazy before.”
Your kids aren’t oblivious to their freakouts.
They don’t forget about them if you don’t immediately hammer them for having one.
They feel badly. They have regrets. They wish they could have do overs.
They just don’t always know how to put all this into nice calm words.
I mean, neither do we half the time, right?
Sometimes your kids need some alone time.
But sometimes they need to know they are still loved and loveable, even when they are out of control.
Even in the midst of a total meltdown — especially in the midst of a total meltdown — what they are really telling you is that they need help.
And ultimately what they really need the most is you.