How to turn a tantrum into a Pit Stop

Kids having a pillow fightSome kids are good at complaining and telling you what they are sad, angry or scared about, other kids are not so good. Again, some kids are also really good at yelling, screaming, throwing stuff (their body or objects) and crying, whereas others tend to bottle it all up inside. Believe it or not the kids who complain, share their problems openly and express their feelings freely are WAY better off!

When kids share their shady thoughts and feelings they get the fearful, sad and angry energy out of their physical bodies and out of their minds. The only problem with our ‘expressive kids’ is that they often do this inappropriately, like when they yell, scream and swear at us and when they physically lash out and hurt themselves, other people or stuff that isn’t supposed to get wrecked.

This fortnight’s blog is about helping our ‘expressive’ kids turn their ‘tantrums’ into Pit Stops. Let’s use a fictitious character, ‘Lilly’ to get us started…

Lilly is a twelve-year old girl who could be described as having ‘leadership’ qualities and a strong sense of what is ‘fair’. She could also be described as ‘bossy’ and ‘fiery’ if you looked at her qualities from a Shady point of view.

Let’s imagine that Lilly has two younger brothers. One has been diagnosed with Autism and the other, ADHD. Lilly understands that her mum and dad need to give both boys a lot of attention, but she has just started high school and could do with some attention herself.

Mum has been meaning to make time to talk to and listen to Lilly, but she has been working part time in the days and then after school she has had the responsibility of organising dinner, getting three kids to after school activities and helping them with their homework.

High school isn’t easy for Lilly. Her biggest worry is the mean girl in her group of friends who obviously doesn’t like Lilly. She has to sit next to this girl in English and listen to her threats about what will happen to Lilly if she “takes her friends off her.”

Let’s imagine that one afternoon after a challenging day at school Lilly can’t hold it in any longer. As a result she is a complete bitch to her brothers in the car on the way home from the shops. On top of this when her mum tires to calm her down and help, Lilly screams and abuses her mum for ‘never listening’ and ‘always giving the boys attention’.

So how do you turn this teenage tantrum into a Pit Stop where Lilly gets to share her Shady thoughts and feelings in an appropriate way?

Lets imagine we are writing a step-by-step solution for Lilly’s mum…

  1. Tell Lilly her behaviour is understandable but NOT acceptable. Something like, “Lilly I can see that you are upset about something but taking it out on other people is not okay. When we get home I would like you to go to your room and bash your pillow on your bed to let out your anger.”
  2. If Lilly carries on swearing and yelling in the car, wind down the windows and ignore her. When you get home ask Lilly to go to her room by repeating your request in a loving way, “Lilly I love you but I can’t help you when you are really angry. Go and get some of your anger out, then I will help you.”
  3. If Lilly won’t go to her room take the boys into your room and shut the door behind you (lock it if necessary). Lilly needs to know that you and her brothers will not take her abuse!
  4. Later when you come out, or in the meantime if Lilly did go to her room, settle the boys with some afternoon tea and get them started on their homework. Tell them their sister needs you and you will be back in a few minutes.
  5. Go to Lilly’s room and knock (or go to Lilly) and ask if she wants to talk about it.
  6. If Lilly is still angry tell her you will come back later. If she lets you in say something like, “Lilly I can see something is wrong. The boys are doing their homework and I want to give you my undivided attention, so how about you come and help me cook tea and when Dad gets home you and I can have some time together. Or if you would rather stay here by yourself you could start writing down all the things that are upsetting you and we can go through them together after dinner while Dad puts the boys to bed.
  7. Then follow through with whatever works for you both, knowing that it might take up to an hour to sort it all out together. (If it is too late seriously consider having a day off work and giving Lilly a day off school the next day to make sure you can support her – tell work you need a ‘mental health day’ with your daughter.)
  8. When you and Lilly are ready, support her to take a Pit Stop following these steps. It might be easier and more realistic to just start with Shady and “What’s wrong?” The first two steps are kind of like setting the scene by helping kids realise that their feelings, body and thoughts are all connected but obviously if Shady is ready to ‘go for it’ than just start there. The last three steps are the most important.
  9. When you get to, “What now?” and Lilly hears an answer from Sparky, encourage Lilly to follow up on Sparky’s advice. If she couldn’t hear her Sparky, ask your Sparky for advice and share that with Lilly. (Make sure it is your Sparky because your Shady will tell her to do something shady which will just make it worse!) Have faith that Sparky knows how to help Lilly be strong and stand up for herself in a loving way that is best for everyone.
  10. Do the last step of the Pit Stop together where Lilly imagines letting the baggage go and then she replaces the fear with love and a loving affirmation like, “I stand up for myself!”

Other than supporting Lilly to act on what Sparky said to follow up… that’s it!

Pit Stops are very cool because they are a scripted way to help our kids get their Shady thoughts and feelings out of them in an appropriate way and to come up with the best solution to their problems on their own. Pit Stops also stop us interrupting our kids and they also stop us fixing our kids problems for them. In other words turning a tantrum or a cry for help into a Pit Stop is a terrific way to empower our kids because  we can’t always be there for them.

Love Kathy

PS Just in case you were wondering what happened to Ben after last fortnight’s post – IT WORKED! Ben took a Pit Stop and faced his fear about being a failure as a dad and his daughter’s behaviour immediately changed for the better! Seriously! He told me, “It was kind of spooky!”

PPS Which reminds me, if Lilly was your daughter and you were triggered by her behaviour and had no patience to help her, then taking a Pit Stop yourself (before you tried to help Lilly) would be totally worth it!

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