Sometimes when children ‘misbehave’ and become emotional, perhaps shouting and crying, they are not testing the boundaries or doing something deliberately to provoke you, but are just having difficulty controlling their feelings, and expressing their emotions in an appropriate way.
At times like this ‘calm down time’ can be very useful.
Used properly calm down time can be a very helpful technique which can teach your child that removing yourself from a situation, and taking time to calm down is a positive thing to do.
We have all seen what can happen when a child, or adult for that matter, becomes extremely upset and angry or frustrated and out of control. Toddlers lose control when they are having a tantrum. The same thing can happen with older children, although this behaviour is usually referred to as a ‘meltdown.’
Of course, by the time your child has ‘lost it’ it is too late.
The aim of calm down time is to teach your child to recognise when they are in danger of being overwhelmed by their feelings, and to go to calm down time before things get out of control.
Your child won’t be able to do this by themselves straight away without support from you, and you should introduce them to calm down time at a neutral time.
Talk about it with your child, and explain that calm down time is not a punishment.
You are introducing it because you understand what it feels like for them when they are upset and angry, and you want to help them to feel better.
Explain that you will suggest they go to calm down time when you see them becoming upset about something, and talk about some specific situations where this might happen. There will be no specific time limit, they might only be there for five minutes, and it is up to your child to come out when they want to.
Where should calm down time be?
Calm down time should be a quiet area somewhere which ideally you can leave set up.
Give it a name, maybe ‘the calm down corner’ or ‘the chill out den,’ get your child’s input when you are setting it up; it could be in your child’s bedroom, but only if that is the place they choose.
Calm down time is not about being ‘sent to your room,’ or ‘to sit on the step.’ It should not be seen as a consequence for misbehaviour.
Make the calm down space inviting and comfortable for your child, perhaps with a beanbag, some cushions and/or a nice soft blanket or rug. There should be something there for your child to do if they wish, maybe some books, a basket of toys or a CD player so that they can listen to stories or music.
Mind jars (a jar filled with glitter glue and water, that you can shake up and then watch the glitter settle) can be useful for young children and can help to distract, while also having a relaxing effect. There is a lot of information on the internet about how to make them.
If you have a child who gets easily frustrated or angry introduce calm down time and try to use this technique whenever you see emotions beginning to run high.
And don’t forget:
Be a role model.
If you want your child to learn a particular behaviour there is no better way than demonstrating that behaviour yourself.
When your children are driving you nuts, don’t yell at them or lose your temper, take time out to calm down instead.
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