The truth about tantrums and discipline in parenting

Explore the misguided advice in parenting forums on behavior-based discipline. Learn how a child's brain processes patterns and reactions to address massive meltdowns by recognizing safety needs. Prioritize your child's emotional well-being with intentional responses.

Behavior-based discipline will tell you that in order to stop a tantrum, you must ignore it, take something away, or, even worse, withdraw yourself. What the brain will tell you though is quite different because your child is responding in exactly the way their brain is wired to.

I am crushed and disheartened by them. They also leave me in disbelief that parents are still being told to ignore a painful experience.

That information is then being given to other parents, which fuels the cycle of mistrust the child is already feeling.

What about those massive meltdowns?

The ones where no matter how much you attempt to talk your neurodivergent child out of, there is no getting through to them? The truth is that you’re right.

There is no way you can make a child calm, especially with empty threats. When the brain is afraid, it’s irrational. And you will never be able to rationalize your way out of it.

Before I give you some insight into what really works, consider where that irrational fear comes from:

✓ the unexpected
✓ the unknown
✓ state of rejection
✓ lack of skills in regulation
✓ difficulty with change
✓ a sudden feeling of overwhelm
✓ anything that disrupts the nervous system

Those unexpected situations are moments when change comes at us quickly and we don’t have enough skills, yet, to pull back, recognize other options, sort through the options, and make an intentional decision based on the evidence gathered.

That’s the reason you see the kicking, yelling, hitting, biting, cursing…and then some! That’s the reason that phrases like “make a good choice right now” or “you should know better” have no bearing here.

Behaviors are your clues.

Instead of punishing and only responding when “appropriate,” learn how to recognize safety needs, gain insight into your child’s thoughts and feelings, and show up for your child in ways that are effective.

✓ Focus on the situation itself – not on what your child is doing right or wrong.
✓ Consider how intense the experience must be.
✓ Let go of your adult opinion of what’s nice or not nice.
✓ Check in with your own nervous system.
✓ Ride the wave by being fully present and intentional.

Forgo punitive methods that don’t work and align with relationship-based ones that do. Change the way that you connect with your neurodivergent child.

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