| |

Calm down time

Share Wildflower Ramblings!

We use a calm down time as a solution for meltdowns because my son has a difficult time following directions right after they are given.  I’m excited to share our story and a solution that is working for us right now, knowing that parenting, and our children, are constantly changing.

calm down time: our peaceful parenting solution for meltdowns

Calm down time for coping before or during outbursts

It is so hard to figure out what is the best form of discipline for our children. Each child has different needs, different outbursts, different ways of coping.

We are trying to figure out the right balance for my son. He tends to have uncontrollable outbursts over seemingly common events. But the more we investigate what is behind these moments of uncontrolled behavior, the more we can help him work through them.

Before initiating this new form of controlled discipline, after an incident would occur, I would most likely yell and tell John to “get in your room!” or “time out!” or “just go outside!” This would result in yelling (by me and him!) I’m not happy about how I have approached this tiresome (and every day, twenty times a day period in parenting). I need to be more disciplined. I need to follow through on how I react and meet his needs at the same time!

This response absolutely was not getting through to him: the hitting his sister, throwing his toys, yelling at inopportune times, etc, were all not happening any less. There had to be a change.

And the solution came to me in the most uncommon of places….

We were at my Bible study, where the kids get to have their own preschool classes at the church. I was pulled out (again) because John had caused a disruption. He got water on his shirt and became irate when the teacher told him he had to wait (just a few minutes while rounding up all the children) to see if me, his mom, had an extra shirt.

This is his sensory processing issue coming out, he gets very upset if there is water or something sticky touching him.

The teacher, rightly, asked him to wait because she had other children to worry about and she couldn’t leave them to ask me for a shirt. She then said that he ran over to a church plant, which he then tore apart, and then jumped into the Cans Donation Bin. He stayed in there until I was called by the other teacher.

And the teacher showed such compassion towards him, “He told me that he was frustrated and didn’t know what to do.” He lashes out with these frustrations, which isn’t right, BUT his frustrations are valid and should not be mis-counted. My boy could not control himself other than to jump into a big bin to calm himself.

He gave himself a Calm Down Time.

And that is what he needs. A moment to face the world, on his own, with no distractions, and feel supported by his mom, or teacher, or dad, whoever, while doing so.

  • Calm Down Time is not a punishment or consequence.
  • It is a means to allow him to reflect on what just occurred.
  • And when he is ready, he can make a positive decision. And move on.

We have been putting this Calm Down Time into motion at home. It has made a world of difference.


Putting Calm Down Time into action

John will not clean up his toys, blocks, Legos when asked. He’ll (every time) take it to the next level and start flailing his arms so the mess of the toys is spread out wider, around the room.  {See our post on hyperactivity solutions here.}

We got out our new Spielgaben set this week, and created some really amazing learning time together. The time was done, we had to move on to something else. I said, “okay, time to clean up.” And that was it.

He started smashing all of our work so all the pieces went flying across the room and floor. I was livid. But instead of yelling, I said, “Do you need a Calm Down Time?” Yes, he did. He went to the couch and buried his head. May and I began cleaning up (boy was I mad, upset, fill in the blank), but after a few minutes, he came up and said, “Mom, I’m real sorry I did that, I don’t know why I did that.”

He was upset that the time was over. It is difficult for him to do anything but smash things when it’s time to be done. But he will get there. He will learn. I want to be there to support him — rather than rile him up and make things much, much worse by yelling.

Giving him those few moments have helped significantly with his outbursts.

** I should note that sometimes children need to have time to display their work or continue working on a project — this is not one of those times. I would love John to want to keep building a project, but at this point, he is not making long-term creations that he wants to keep adding to, but for the occasional Lego jet, which I am fine with him saving.

Calm Down Time allows him to:
1) reflect on the situation or the task asked of him
2) feel remorse for his meltdown
3) decide what he can do next time instead

And coming out of the Calm Down Time, (instead of a punishment-driven “Time Out”), he will almost always say, “I’m sorry, I feel really bad about that” and move on. Lesson learned. He will continue to try.

What does Calm Down Time look like?

Calm Down Time can look different to every child. For my son, he wants to be alone. (My daughter wants to be held, her story is for another post). He usually wants a book with him. He sometimes likes to go into his closet or under his blanket — in the dark. He likes to hold his Hippo and Cow stuffed animals. It looks different for everyone.

There can still be a consequence

Calm Down Time is not the consequence. It is a time to reflect to be prepared for the consequence. Sometimes this could simply be, “okay, now we’re ready to pick up the living room.” Or, if he hit his sister, it could be, “now you cannot have (a special treat or toy) for the rest of the day.” Or he needs to draw an “I’m Sorry” picture. We try to make the discipline fit the crime, but this can’t always be the case.

I make sure to follow up, after a few minutes, to talk about the incident, and let him know what our next step is.
First and foremost, we want John to be able to cope with is reactions and his emotions. We also desire for him to have respect for his parents, and the adults in his life.

We have also taught him that he can say, “no” and give a reason for his deference and we will talk about a plan. This is particularly good to teach children that they have autonomy with their thoughts and their bodies. No one can make them do what they don’t think is right. This, of course, does not apply to, “Clean your Legos up.” or “Stop kicking your sister.”

I hope our story can help you understand your own child more.  What do you do to help your hyperactive or challenging child follow directions?


20+ resources for helping my hyperactive child

What is sensory processing and how can I help my child?


Share Wildflower Ramblings!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *