Respond not React
Amanda, a previous Mental Health Counselor, wrote an article for her blog, Messy Motherhood, on the most powerful way to respond to a child who is seemingly inconsolable during a moment of distress. The theory behind her article is that when your child seems to be preparing for a major meltdown, diverting their attention to something that stimulates their brain will shift their attention enough to help them calm down. In a moment of distress, children often feel so overwhelmed that they struggle with how to convey how they are feeling. As a parent, it's important to understand that these kinds of responses are normal for children. What makes it more bearable is when you yourself have a greater understanding of how the brain works when we are experiencing upsetting feelings and emotions. Amanda explains in her article that when we get upset, our brains are functioning in the limbic system which is the part of the brain that controls our emotions. The stress on this area of the brain makes it more difficult for the upper part of our brain, where we have the ability to use logic, to interact with the rest of our body. Adults experience similar responses but because they are emotionally more developed than children, the response is less dramatic and our thoughts are more clear. Encouraging your child to think when they are feeling overwhelmed will make them more calm in a less dramatic way than if you were to reason or argue with them in that moment. Helping them calm down will allow them to do what it was you asked of them or divert them long enough to get them to remove their focus from what made them upset. This trick might also work for parents!