167: How to Manage Meltdowns, with the Behavior Revolution

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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Did you know that meltdowns are different from tantrums? While a tantrum can devolve into a meltdown, a meltdown is very different. A child is not in control of themselves during a meltdown. Their brain has sort of been hijacked.

In this episode of the Podcast, my partner in the Behavior Revolution, Sarah Wayland, Ph.D., and I take a deep dive on meltdowns. We’re talking about what a meltdown is and how it’s different from a tantrum, and we’re outlining the five steps you need to take when your child is having a meltdown — and some of these steps may surprise you. If you want to reduce the intensity and duration of meltdowns, and help your child when they’re having a hard time, this episode is a must-listen. 


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My Guest

We’re Penny and Sarah, parenting coaches who help neurodiverse families like yours understand your child’s neurology and behavior, and shift your parenting to help your child thrive — without the frustration of trying to figure it out on your own. We’re also moms of boys with ADHD and/or autism, so we get it. We live it, too.



Penny Williams 0:03

Your thinking brain is inaccessible in meltdown. And so when you talk to someone, your thinking brain is offline, they can't process it. They can't think about it. They can't respond to it. It's just adding to the overwhelm. You're just piling more on to an already overflowing bucket.

Welcome to The Parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD a Holic and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back to The Parenting ADHD podcast. We are here again with a behavior revolution episode with Sarah Wayland. And I who founded the behavior revolution together, it's an initiative devoted to celebrating and supporting kids with ADHD or autism, through neuroscience backed insights, hard won strategies, compassion and guidance. And so we're here as the behavior revolution for our monthly behavior episode of the parenting ADHD podcast. And today we are going to talk about how to manage meltdowns, which we get asked so very often, right? So so often, and it was something that I didn't know for a long time, I really had to figure it out.

And the way I first sort of started figuring it out, was realizing that my kid had zero control, when he was in a meltdown, a full on meltdown, he had absolutely no control over himself. And I'll tell that story in a second. But I think we need to start with what we define as a meltdown. And the fact that a tantrum and a meltdown are different things. For me, a tantrum is a purposeful outburst to get what they want. And when it's a tantrum, once their need is resolved, the tantrum stops on a dime, just instantly stops. And in a meltdown, the brain has been hijacked and flooded, and they are not in control. And they actually have to just go through it and go through some recovery. They cannot stop, a tantrum can be the start and it can turn into a meltdown. So even if you're in meltdown territory now and you're saying, Okay, I will buy that toy, for instance, they can't stop it, like they could have it was a tantrum. Anything you want to add to that distinction, Sarah.

Sarah Wayland 3:00

I really love that you bring that up, penny that it can start as a tantrum and shift into a meltdown. Because it honestly took me years to figure that out. Like people would say, What's the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown? And I would think, I somehow this isn't working, right. But it's really true. Like a kid can start out saying, No, I want the candy bar, I want to do whatever. And then they just kind of spiral out of control. And it becomes something entirely different. Yeah. And so I think it's important to remember that that it could start out as trying to manipulate people. And then as they get more and more upset, then you know, their body shifts into some crazy mode that they really have no control anymore.

Penny Williams 3:48

Exactly. Yeah. So I wanted to share the story about Luke when he was young. Those stories and at least two of my books, I think I know it's envoy without instructions. But this was the kind of the pivotal moment where I and his dad both were like, Whoa, he's not doing this on purpose. He's in zero control of this. And it started out by asking for a toy. We had actually been snowed in for an entire week in our house with no power, no running water. And we had finally gotten out that day. And we had gone and done some fun things, and went to Target for them to spend their allowance. And we wanted to eat dinner out because we had been cooking on a gas cooktop but we were like melting snow for water. And we just, we desperately needed somebody else to make a meal and it'd be a really yummy meal. And so we're waiting for it to be late enough to do that. And we popped into a Goodwill store because I just wanted some picture frames I could paint and I told them both kids walking in Luke was I would say seven, maybe eight.

And I said you know you can eat Choose a book. You can get a book here, but we just got toys at Target. You just spent your allowance. Okay? Okay, it's my run to the bucks. And then, of course, he doesn't see anything he wants. And as he's coming back to find me, he passes some toys. And there was a broken RV car. So it was the car like the car Jeep or something. There was no remote. One wheel was missing. So you couldn't even roll it on the ground yourself. Right. And it was $1. And he just had to have this broken car. And I just had to say, I already told you what you couldn't, couldn't have. And I'm going to stick to that. Right. This was the time I was going to stick to my guns. And it completely escalated into madness. So it started clearly as a tantrum, he wanted it. I said, No, he was going to try to figure out a way to get it right. So it quickly devolves into screaming, I hate you. You don't love me. It's only $1, anything he could think of, to try to sort of twist me into his way. And then the tears came and the shouting.

And by this point, everybody in there is watching us, right? Everybody's looking people are literally coming around the corner and looking down the aisle. It's a big scene. And I just wanted to leave. And so I'm trying to leave dad and sister had already fled. It was just me and him in the store. And I just grabbed his hand and I was trying to get him out. And he was just pulling against me, he did not want to leave because he could not get this broken car out of his mind. And the more I pushed to leave, the further he got beyond tantrum into meltdown, right. And so I finally was able to get him out the door. And I'll never forget, we walk out the door, and the door closes behind us. But then I can't get him off the sidewalk into the parking lot to get in the car. And so as he's pulling me every time he pulls or pushes, to try to, move me to His will, the door opens again. It's like theater curtains, right? Everybody's still standing in the store just watching, like, play. So this door is opening and closing on this just catastrophe that's happening, right.

And so then he grabs my purse, which is on my shoulder, and he just leans his whole body weight holding it. At this point, I think he thought as long as she can't move, there might be a chance of going back in, right. And he was getting so flooded with emotions. And he almost knocked me down on top of him. And I kind of got, of course super frustrated because I didn't know any better at the time. And I said, we're walking to this car right now like, and I grabbed his hand and he screamed, louder, objected louder, but he actually physically came with me. But then he wouldn't get in the car. And he's screaming and then his dad gets out. And he's trying to just lift him up and put him in and he's putting all his arms and legs outright. So we can't fit through the opening. And it was just beyond anything I could have imagined as a meltdown or tantrum or anything like you just never imagined your kid could go this far over the cliff. And we finally got him in the car. He wouldn't buckle. So then his sister was having an anxiety attack. Because he wouldn't buckle and I kept telling her we're not leaving yet. We're not going to go until he buckles and when until everything's calm, but that energy is contagious, right? So we're all just feeling so out of sorts, and he's kicking the seats.

And he's screaming, and by this time, he's saying I want the book, not the toy. I want the book. Because now at some point, he was like, Okay, well, I'll take anything. I need something, right. And so he's sitting in his seat in the car, and he's just going, I want the book. I want the book. I want the book. It was like a record in a scratch. It was so robotic. And we looked at each other and went, he's not in there right now. Like he is just not in control. And he was starting to sort of come out of it at that point because he was much more calm. And he was just having this sort of rhythmic repetition of what he was saying. And he finally got to a point where we could talk to him and he would against our and offered him a snack and some stuff and then you know, then he just felt awful, right? He just felt so awful, so regretful, but also just really bad that he had hurt me that he had embarrassed us that you know the whole thing. I mean, my husband and I, we grabbed each other's hand and we're crying in the front seat like, we just were like, wow, we couldn't believe that went there.

And we were so sad for him. We were so sad for him that he had to go through that. Because we were realizing that it wasn't a choice, you know. And so that was when I learned what a meltdown was. And I learned that we're not in control in meltdown that our brains really have just sort of gone on some sort of crazy autopilot rate just completely flooded, and that it just had to cycle out and we just had to give it time and space. And so that was my first foray into learning what a meltdown was. But I think it's a really good illustration, because it was a really big meltdown. Right. And there were so many things, but that piece of it, where he was just repeating, like a robot was so clear, at that point, that it wasn't his intention, none of it was in his control after that first little bit, so I just always like to tell that story. Not to relive the pain but to, to help other people, right, we're helping other people by sharing our stories. And it's a really good illustration, I think a lot of the parents listening to us right now can relate to that can relate to a time where their kid has had some similar sort of outbursts that they really couldn't change. And that's what we're here to talk about in this episode is those outbursts that you can't affect in the moment, which we call meltdowns.

Sarah Wayland 11:37

Yeah. And, you know, Penny at that story is so powerful, because it's clear after some point, like he just tipped over that cliff, and, it's funny, too, because I was just sitting here remembering episodes like that from, from when my kids were little, like, I look back at these things now. And I realize it's not just the thing that they say they want. But there's also like some something else going on that I see so much more clearly now, like, my son couldn't stay in his seat in the booth in this restaurant. And he kept crawling under the table, and it was gross down there. And so I was like, get out from under the table. But like, now looking back at it, I'm like, Oh, he was overwhelmed by the fluorescent lights. And he was just trying to get into a little cave. Like, I look back at it now. And I'm like, oh, that's what that was. But I mean, this led to like, 30 minute meltdown involving my husband having to carry him out to the car and strap him into the back seat. And yeah, I mean, it was horrible. But like, I look back at it now. And I'm like, what did it hurt him to just sit under the table?

Penny Williams 12:50

Because other people were judging it?

Sarah Wayland 12:52

Yeah. But if we weren't making a scene over it, they wouldn't even know he was there.

Penny Williams 12:58

Yeah, I think all the time. When I go in restaurants, or in a store, wherever and a kid is either just loud and rambunctious or clearly having a hard time I get it. Like, I never think oh, my gosh, would they just get their kid to straighten up? Or would they just get their kid to stop crashing? Or, why do they not have control over their kid that never comes in my mind anymore? Because now I'm like, I totally get it. I get what they're going through. And I hope that someday they get it to you know that they understand it? Well, yeah. But we had the same things. Luke would constantly be under the table in the restaurant, hey, everybody was mortified. And I was kind of like a big deal. Like, you get to a point where you just can't fight everything. And when you fight, it's not helpful. And so I got to a point where I was like there's a lot worse things can be happening right now than that. But it was it was overwhelmed. And it was shelter from that. And right, we don't think about the fact that the store or the public places light or bright or loud, or, unfamiliar or having to sit still for too long, right? Hmm. Yeah. You know, we're expecting behavior that maybe isn't doable for our kids. Yeah, well, of course, they're going to lose it. Right, if we're putting all that pressure on them, and they can't release it because they can't comply in the ways that we've asked them. Yeah. So I think that's a really good illustration of what is a meltdown? What are we talking about here? Before we give you the tips on managing it because I think you have to really understand the differentiation between tantrum and meltdown. And that was a big aha for me, like I remember finding this chart online on somebody's blog, and it said, a tantrum can be turned off instantly, when the request is met. And a meltdown cannot even if you meet what they've asked for, even if you meet, whatever. And I was like, Oh my gosh, so.

Sarah Wayland 14:57

Even even with that one I found It's a little misleading, because sometimes like, let's say the meltdown is about wanting to be under the table because it's too bright in the restaurant, right. And so if you're forcing him to sit in the booth where it's bright, and you let him go under the table, like he's not experiencing that sensory overwhelm, so you are meeting his need, and he will calm down more quickly, right?

Penny Williams 15:24

Eventually. Yeah, yeah. But not instantaneously. Right?

Sarah Wayland 15:28

Well, usually there's sort of a period of, yeah.

Penny Williams 15:32

But with a tantrum, it's like, instant.

Sarah Wayland 15:35

Oh, thanks for the candy bar.

Penny Williams 15:37

Yeah, it goes from blubbering, wailing and screaming, to like, it never happened in a millisecond. Right. That's the distinction. Yeah. So you want to dive into our five steps to manage meltdown?

Sarah Wayland 15:51

Sure, that sounds like an awesome thing. So the first one, you should talk about this one, because I find that this is easy to say and really hard to do.

Penny Williams 16:02

Mm hmm. Its own learned skill, with lots of practice. So the first step is staying calm, and being able to lend your calm to your child. CO regulation, you've heard us talk about CO regulation, we are wired as human beings to mirror in kind. And so when someone is yelling at us, our instinct is to yell back. It's protective. And we have to override that we have to be mindful and aware and take action that we are going to stay calm. And it takes a lot of practice. And it takes I think, to you know, sort of keeping an eye on the fact that your child is having a hard time. They're not behaviors not intentional. There, they're not in control anymore. That always helped me to stay calm when I could say, okay, he is really just having a hard time. It's not about me, it's not about the things he's saying to me, because he doesn't even mean them. Yeah, it's about the fact that he's struggling. And when I know that he is struggling, now I can be calm, because that's what he needs from me. Right. So now I'm helping him by staying calm.

Sarah Wayland 17:14

See, you're such a better mom than me. I get overwhelmed from sort of a sensory standpoint. And so like, if my kid is really screaming, during the meltdown, like that full throated, it's very hard for me to stay calm. And I've had to learn that it's actually better for me to say, Hey, dude, I can't really, stay calm right now. So I need to go give myself a break, and just leave. And sometimes, he'd run after me and pound the doors open. But I literally just was so overwhelmed myself, that I couldn't stay home. And I honestly think this is the hardest skill we stuck here first in our list. And I've learned a lot of techniques over the years, but it's definitely so hard to just, and the other thing my husband says a lot is, he says, but when I yell, then they stop.

Penny Williams 18:17

So many parents say that all the time, right? Yeah. But at what cost? Exactly? And it's always my question at what cost, there's at what cost.

Sarah Wayland 18:26

And there's also that you're not teaching them, you're modeling, you're not modeling the behavior you want them to have, right? It's a short term reward. But if you want a long term investment, they have to learn how to calm their own bodies down. And, just stifling it doesn't actually teach that. And it can have long term physical consequences for kids, and mental health consequences. Absolutely.

Penny Williams 18:57

Kids who were raised with fear based parenting, which is pretty much the traditional approach, let's be honest. Yeah, it's the approach at school for compliance as well. But kids who, I guess have more extreme experiences in that regard, have way more anxiety and depression as adults have. So it's trauma during development. I mean, if we want to really lay our cards out and be really real, you're traumatizing your kid while they're developing, which is very, very hard to heal. And to sort of make better down the road. Yeah, yeah. So we really have to be very cognizant, but I love that you brought up that if you can't be calm, there's alternatives. You can walk away. Now you have to be careful about that because some kids that's very escalating, they feel rejected. So you know, you have to lay the groundwork for that. And I think that comes in one of our later steps here. So we'll We'll get to that. But you know, just work on it, it's a process, you're not going to be great at it this afternoon or this evening after hearing this, because you heard it, and that's what you want to do. It's not a switch that you can flip, it's something that's going to take a lot of practice. And then you have to be really kind to yourself when you make mistakes, because we all do.

Sarah Wayland 20:23

And I think communicating to your child, that you're human, and that you make mistakes. So, sometimes parents will ask me, Well, I don't feel like I should have to apologize for this. Right? I apologize all the time, because I am such an imperfect human being. And so, I do have my moments where I really don't do the ideal thing. And so I just say, You know what, I messed up, I'm so sorry. I wish I could have done better. But in the moment, I wasn't thinking clearly.

Penny Williams 20:55

Yeah. And that's real life. That's what it is to be human being. And when we don't show that side of ourselves to our kids, they think that there's something wrong with them, because they're making mistakes, you're sending the wrong message entirely. And it's not what we mean to do. But that's what happens. Right? Right. So step two, is showing empathy.

Sarah Wayland 21:18

And can I just say, this one is such a game changer. So powerful. The first one, I feel like you don't get immediate feedback, that it's helpful. And so it's like a long term investment. But you're not going to get feedback in the moment that it's helping your child. But over the long term, it definitely helps. But the second one works almost instantly if they're able to process what's going on.

Penny Williams 21:46

Yeah. And step one, staying calm, is really the foundation. Like, yeah, all the other steps are going to go better if you're calm, right? And yes, you can be. So it's kind of like the foundational piece to the other steps, right? Yeah. So when you show empathy, you're letting your child know that you see that they're struggling, you want to give some examples, you're really good at giving examples of showing empathy and validation.

Sarah Wayland 22:11

Oh, my gosh, yeah, this this one for me, like it was such an eye opener to me to realize how helpful it was for my kids to know that I understood what was going on for them. And while you were talking about the number one, staying calm, being the foundation for everything else, if you show empathy, while you're not calm, it really doesn't feel like empathy. So if you're like, I see you're really upset. Really, really help very much. So you do have to stay calm, to show empathy, but you know, oh, well just use the example from the diner when we were, when my son was hiding under the table, like, you know, when he started losing it, when we kept pulling him out from underneath, if I had just said, Oh, I see really want to be under the table, and I'm sure it's much more cozy down there. Right? If I just said something like that, instead of, Hey, get up in the seat here. Nobody wants you down there. Like, that's gross. There's food on the floor. Don't do that, then all that's doing is rebutting his feelings. And it makes him feel like I don't understand. Yeah, and so you know, just saying, hey, you know what, I can see why it's more comfortable down there.

And truthfully, like, over the years, we learn to always bring a hat, interest runs and things like that. And even though it's considered rude to wear a hat, or your hoodie with the hood up, heaven forbid, then that's a way of blocking that light out. Yeah. And so you know, over time, because I understood that the light was dis regulating for him, I could see that we actually keep a blanket in our car, because when the lights coming in through the windows, my son gets very overwhelmed, even still, and he just keeps the blanket with him all the time. And when it's overwhelming, he puts the blanket over his head. And it's fine accommodation. So there you go. But showing that empathy is really helpful, I think, because then your kids know that you're not just asking them to do the thing. Like that. You don't understand the cost of it. You know, for them, yeah. Yeah. So if you say, Yeah, I can see how, how that's better. You know, for you under there, it feels cozy feel like there's not it's not as noisy, it's not as bright. And then you could say, if you can sit up in the chair, maybe we can put in some foam earplugs which I still carry around in my purse for them and put my sweater over your head or something like it helps them to understand that you see what the cost is for asking what you're asking.

Penny Williams 24:51

And that you get it. I mean, our kids want is for somebody to get them. Yeah. And it's much more validating and I think even if you don't know the reason, if your kids under the table, he really doesn't want to come out, he's kind of melt down if you make him, even if you don't understand that it's too loud or too bright, or he just feels safer under there. Yeah, you can say, I see that you're having a really hard time in the restaurant tonight. It can be more general and still be very comforting and empathetic. Yeah. So keep that in mind as well. Step three, respond, don't react, pause and respond with purpose, decide what's best, instead of just instinctually sort of blurting, like, we always get so upset when our kids blurt things out, right. And that's kind of what we're doing when, when they yell at us. And we just yell right back, we just explode right back, right? Like, we have to just take a moment and really consider what's going on, consider that they're having a hard time and come up with a purposeful response.

Sarah Wayland 26:00

That one's really hard to because you know, there's like your instinctual mind and your rational mind. And the rational mind is so much slower to act than your instinctual mind. And so sometimes, you really do have to, like, just say, Okay, I know, I want to stomp or yell or push them where they need to go or whatever. And that's your fast brain talking. But your slow brain might know, if you held your hand out to them in an inviting gesture, they might be willing to come with you, as opposed to pushing them where they need to go.

Penny Williams 26:35

Yeah, yeah. And I learned to just make myself take a breath, before I open my mouth, take a really deep breath and blow it out slow, and what we're doing is we're regulating our own nervous system by doing that. But we're also putting a little bit of a pause and a break in there. So that that thinking rational brain can be more usable.

Sarah Wayland 27:02

And, you know, Penny, if you're modeling for your kids, what you want them to learn to do.

Penny Williams 27:08

Yep. Always, always, they're always watching. Right? They're always watching us. Yes, they are. It drives me up a wall. And I used to do this too. But it drives me up a wall to see parents who are yelling at their kid because their kid was yelling at them. And I'm like, but you're teaching them to do that. You're teaching them that when you get frustrated, you scream, right, right. Like, when you can sit back outside of that situation, and think rationally about it. Then you're like, Well, no wonder, I just literally told my kid to do the thing, that I didn't want them to do that I was upset with them for doing. I just showed them. That's what you do.

Sarah Wayland 27:53

Yeah, I have a friend who always says Do what I say not what I do.

Penny Williams 27:58

But you know, we're not wired that way. Kids, especially the hit, they're much more likely to emulate than to just take those words and use them later. Especially impulsive kids, like, yeah, we can't just tell them how to be and then an hour later expect that they remember that. And they're going to be able to call on it and use it and stop themselves from doing something crazy and do exactly what we had told them that they should be doing. Right? Like, we think about it that way. It's just insane. Because we're taught that you tell your child to do something, and they do it, period. Right. And so we don't question that until we have a kid where we need to question that. But really, this is for every child, every single child would do better. Under the sort of parenting premises that we're outlining here. Step four, my favorite, stop talking, I was gonna say this is our favorite. If you do nothing else, and we really hope you do all of them. But if you don't stop talking, because you're only making it worse. Here's the thing. The emotional brain, the survival brain has taken over the thinking brain is offline, right? Your thinking brain is inaccessible in meltdown.

And so if your thinking brain isn't accessible, it's not working. When you talk to someone whose thinking brain is offline. They can't process it. They can't think about it. They can't respond to it. It's just adding to the overwhelm. You're just piling more on to an already overflowing bucket. Right? Yeah. Yeah. Talking in a meltdown is so bad. And we're not saying ignore your child because that could really escalate to, you've already gone through these other steps, where you're saying, you're having a hard time. I really want to help you and then you're leaving it alone until they get to a place that bring it to a place where their thinking brain is coming back on. Mind?

Sarah Wayland 30:00

Yeah. And you know, I think too, especially with parents who are very good at talking, like they have great language skills, right? They think, oh, if I just explain a little more than my kid will see the wisdom of what I'm asking and be able to do it, which you know, might be true, except that they can't process what you're saying. I think the thing that made the biggest difference for me understanding why this doesn't work is that when you're overwhelmed, there are physiological changes that make it hard for you to understand language. So like your middle ear constricts, so you can't hear things as clearly. And then also, like you said, your thinking brain just goes offline. And you literally can't understand language. And so like understanding that I can talk all I want, it's just coming through like that Charlie Brown teacher, and then okay, that's not helping my kid. I think I'm explaining myself but my kid can't take advantage of all that wisdom. I'm trying to, to impart.

Penny Williams 31:08

Yes, I am the great rationalizer. And I just wanted to rationalize him right out of any behavior, right. That was my instinct, type a, let's fix it. Right? And yeah, oh my gosh, no matter how much I talked, no matter how much sense I made, nothing changed, right. And when I realized that, the emotional brain survival brain takes over and the thinking brain goes offline, I went, Oh, my God, no wonder that never worked. It never ever worked, ever. Yeah. And I just kept doing it. Because this is all I knew how to do. Right, was the great rationalizer. And that should work and it didn't work. And that's why he's physiologically he couldn't process that, right. He couldn't add anything else.

Sarah Wayland 31:55

And they want to, that's the other thing they want to so much like, they know you want them to listen. And so they're trying so hard. And then they just get even more overwhelmed. Because they know they're failing.

Penny Williams 32:09

And they get Yeah, more upset with themselves. Yeah. More internalizing of what's happening. is them being bad or broken? Yeah, it's a really vicious cycle. If we don't manage it in a way that's helpful, rather than harmful. There's no other word for it. Right. You know, we have to recognize our kids perspective on it. What are they hearing, we might be saying something and intending something. They could be hearing something entirely different. We can walk Yeah. Or mom walked away. She doesn't want me, huh? All right.

Sarah Wayland 32:47

Gosh, that's the whole piece that, oh, I don't even know where to go with that Penny, it's hard.

Penny Williams 32:53

It's now where we're asking parents now to manage themselves stay calm, even though their body is saying reel back, throw something to, we're asking them to think about what's going on for their kid. And it's not that they're trying to hurt you, or that they're bad. Yeah. And we want you to also think about everything you say and do what how your kids interpreting it. It's a lot. And I think it's stages. Like I came to that third stage of being very mindful of what unintended messages I was sending. Mm hmm. Just a few years ago, and I've been in this for 13 years. Right? So right, gosh, more than 13 years. So we're not saying that, you're going to be able to walk away from this podcast and know what you need to do, you'll know what, you're not going to be able to do it all right away. So don't expect that of yourselves. We don't expect it of you,

Sarah Wayland 33:55

And you're going to fall off the bandwagon. Sometimes you're just going to really lose your marbles. And that is okay, just do better next time.

Penny Williams 34:07

So you know, better you do better.

Sarah Wayland 34:09

Well, and you're imperfect too. I mean, that's something I just remind myself all the time is that we are all human beings. And we all have our moments, even when we know better. We just can't help it.

Penny Williams 34:21

Yes, because we have these autonomic nervous systems and we have all these things that are, are also in control, right? Like we think that we're in control of ourselves completely. Like, through our thinking brain, we control ourselves. 100% We don't Yep, we are we are not completely in control of ourselves. Even as rational maybe neurotypical grown as parents, we still are not completely in control. Because that's all we all want, right is to be in control of everything. Because yeah, we feel the most comfortable when we're in control of everything. But we can't. We can't Being in control of everything. And that's just some of the work that we have to do on ourselves, me being able to be very transparently imperfect. And being okay with being imperfect came from a whole lot of self work. Yeah. On acceptance. Yes. And that was stuff that I was doing myself outside of my parenting and my family. And it was extremely powerful. For instances, like we're talking about meltdowns, but also just the day to day, I just don't get all riled up about everything, which is amazing considering that I have massive anxiety. You know, going Penny Good job. It has been more transformative, probably from anxiety than for my parenting has been wildly transformative for my parenting.

But yeah, there's, there's a lot to be said for saying, Hey, this is the human experience. And I'm no different. Yeah, I'm no different. Were, what is it? beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect? It's part of our manifesto. So step number five, on your child's needs, well, this gets to what you're saying, yeah. You have to understand the child that you have, right? And you have to do what they need from you. And really the example there is, no, if your kid one needs you to go away or need you to stay. For me, that was a big deal. Because I would go away, and he would run after me. And he'd be more upset and more panicked. And because to him, it was rejection. And when I realized that, then I could stay and not talk, right? I could, I could follow all these steps. But I could stay there. I could say, hey, I want to help you. When you're thinking brains back online, and we can do this, then come in, let me know. And I'm gonna hang out because I love you. And I want to support you. But I'm not going to talk until we can problem solve.

Sarah Wayland 36:58

I have to tell you a story about this one, I had a client come in, and her daughter kept getting really upset at her like, she would get really upset. And then she'd start beating her mom, like just literally running after her and pounding on her. Yeah. And she would say, and the little girl would say, Go away, go away, leave me alone, leave me alone. And her mom was trying so hard. Like to be there and be you know, a loving, calm presence. And her daughter was shouting go away, leave me alone. And so I watched the video and I said, Well, what happens if you go away? And she said, she said she calms down. So why didn't she go away? And she said, Well, they wanted to be there for her. And I said I think that's an amazing thing that you were able to think that in the moment, like I would have been running a moment. But she was like trying so hard to be a good mom. And her daughter was someone who actually needed her to truly go away. So she could calm down without anybody around her. Right. And so every kid is so different. What they need is so different.

Penny Williams 38:12

And it's different at different times. When my son was little, I had to stay. Now that he's a teenager, young adult, he wants to be as far away from me as possible, because why? I'm a rational iser I talk. He just needs quiet. And peace to process. Yeah. Right. And I've had to learn. Here you were talking about, she's screaming at her go away, go away. What would you do? My former parenting self? would have been like, No, we got to fix this. I can't go anywhere. This is not, we're done. Right. And I would just keep rationalizing. I keep talking, I keep trying to make it better. And that's a really big point here, too. We're trying to make it better. But we're actually making it worse. Yeah. We don't doubt your intentions. Your intentions are to help your kid or to protect yourself if you know they're exploding. But your intentions are good. And you want to help them you want them not to struggle. We don't want to see them hurt and suffering. But we go about it in ways that actually escalate the situation too often because we don't know about our Yeah, to know everyone listening knows better.

We're gonna hold you to it. I'm kidding.

Sarah Wayland 39:24

Well, and the point you brought up that I think is just so critically important, too, is that our kids change, and even from day to day, what my kid needed yesterday might be different than what he needs tomorrow. And so you have to stay curious. And stay alert to whether what you're doing is helping or not.

Penny Williams 39:46

And take the cues from your kid. If they're saying go away. They mean it right, and you don't have to just walk off upset and in a huff with your feelings hurt you can say Okay, what I hear you saying is that you need some quiet time. You need some alone time to work this out. And I want to respect that. Yeah. So I'm gonna walk away. But please come to me if you need me. Yeah, yeah. Works great. Now they know that you care. Right? And that you are at least trying to get it. You're trying to understand their point of view. That's super powerful. That goes a long way, especially with teens. Yeah, for sure. So we're going to link up a print of all of these five steps of managing a meltdown, on the show notes page for this podcast episode. And we might link up some other resources have talked about other things as well there and link you to the behavior revolution, of course, as well. And those show notes can be found at parentingADHDandautism com/167. For Episode 167, any closing thoughts, my friend?

Sarah Wayland 41:07

Kids do well, if they can. And parents do too. I'll leave with that.

Penny Williams 41:14

Yes, we say it all the time about kids and adding parents and there's so so helpful to us. Yeah. You know, it allows us to give ourselves grace. Right. And our kids grace to Mm hmm. And I guess with that, I will see everyone next time and we'll be back in a month with another behavior revolution episode as well. So take care. Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching, and Mama retreats at parentingADHDandautism.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

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  • I have a beautiful 11 year old granddaughter who is mildly autistic. The tantrums and meltdowns are becoming more and more frequent and more violent. It is hard to manage. She has left very big bruises on my daughter and my other granddaughter (14 years) is frightened of her. She often misses out on quality time because my younger granddaughter demands so much. She is destroying doors, windows and other household items in her meltdowns. We have watched as many podcasts as we can and are implementing as much as possible. How do we protect the other children and our home whilst trying to understand and respond appropriately?

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