The end of the school year provides plenty of social events for parents to practice authoritative parenting. Last week my daughter’s preschool had a year-end family picnic. We were all looking forward to it, especially our older son who had attended there years before.
Things were fun and zany as the above picture indicates. We were having a great time until our three year-old daughter saw her little friend’s toy phone and wanted it. I was slowly persuading my daughter to return it to its rightful owner when her little friend took advantage of the distraction and retrieved it from my daughter’s hand. The wailing, kicking, and pouting ensued and continued for a while. I looked around for help, but my husband and son were elsewhere.
While we all deal with our kids’ meltdowns in our own way, I wanted to share with you what I did because it gave me peace of mind. I was glad I used authoritative parenting methods and stayed present and hopeful despite my daughter’s display of big emotions.
Six Authoritative Parenting Tips For Public Meltdowns
- Stay Calm
You are most effective in helping your child to manage her big emotions when you can manage your big emotions. Staying calm helps you think clearly. When you panic because of fear, embarrassment, or shame, you cut off your connection to higher brain function, and your thinking goes reptilian. Be responsible for your own emotional state and model mastery for your child by taking a few deep breaths, accepting the situation, and staying calm.
- Clearly Communicate Boundaries
My daughter started lashing out at me because she really wanted her friend’s toy phone. I told her firmly and lovingly to be gentle and hitting was not okay. I reminded her that it was her friend’s turn to play with the phone. I was using my words, but there comes a time when words are not enough, so…
- Decide What Action to Take
I decided that if things did not shift, I would restrain her and remove her from the middle of the group of friends until she was calm. It was for everyone’s safety since she was kicking and looked like she was going to make a grab to get the phone back. We both needed some space to cool off.
- Stop Talking and Follow Through
This is often where many parents get side-tracked and start yelling, threatening, and using up a lot of energy. I have found it effective to simply stop talking, take another deep breath to ground yourself in love, and follow through with the course of action you decided to take. Doing this in a calm, compassionate way keeps you anchored in peace instead of vindication. You are also less likely to escalate the scene and look even more foolish.
- Circle Back Later
Keep an eye on the situation and look for opportunities to connect with the others involved. I talked with my daughter’s friend’s parents and found then to be very sympathetic and understanding. Also, a few days later, I checked in with my daughter’s teacher who acknowledged but didn’t dwell on the encounter, saying that happens with three year-olds. I really appreciated their comments.
- Love Yourself
All the while, my conditioned mind was saying nasty things to me like, “Everybody thinks you are a mess,” “You’re the worst mom and you have the worst kids,” “You don’t know what you are doing because you can’t control your kids,” or “If you just punished her, she’d be sorry, and this would be over.” I have learned that love, not guilt or shame or pain of different sorts, can bring about responsibility and connection in the long term. It starts with us, the parents. Love yourself first. Be gentle with yourself. Embrace your humanity, accept responsibility, and forgive yourself. It is hard to enjoy being a parent when you are beating yourself up on the inside.
Authoritative Parenting is about being both connected and setting clear boundaries. When you follow through in a loving, intentional way, you will experience more success and fulfillment with your kids.
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