How to handle an elementary school kid's meltdown

Learn about: How to handle an elementary school kid's meltdown from Laura Markham, PhD,...
How to handle an elementary school kid's meltdown | Kids in the House
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How to handle an elementary school kid's meltdown


Elementary school kids have a lot to navigate. Often you know, we are past those volatile toddler preschool years, it looks like everything is fine. And then all of a sudden you find that your child is being difficult or defiant and then they are crying or they are yelling at you. What are you supposed to do? Stop, don't take it personally, breathe, empathize. Empathize. Sweetie, you are so upset, what's going on? And probably when you say that you are going to hear back of course I am upset. You are not listening to me, you never listen. That's not information about you. That's information about the turmoil your child is in at that moment. This may have nothing to do with you. This may be that the mean girls excluded her today at the lunch table or that she is worried about her test tomorrow. Or it might be that there are some family dynamics that are hard for her and she is jealous of her brother, right. Or feeling that maybe he's a better soccer player tan she is, or something. Something that really doesn't have to do with you. So what can you do? Continue to meet her upset with compassion and empathy. Wow, it must feel so terrible to feel like I don't listen to you. Sweetie, I am so sorry I wasn't listening. Tell me again, I'm all here. And if you can continue every time she bursts out at you, to meet her with compassion eventually she will burst into tears, she will sob in your arms. And then she will pull herself together and say mommy I am so sorry. I don't know why I was so upset. Or maybe she will tell you why she was upset, maybe she even knows at that point. I had a hard time at school, 8 years olds can tell you this, and I was taking it out on you. I'm sorry. And it't out of her system. She does some problem solving with you and she can go on and have a perfectly lovely evening.

Learn about: How to handle an elementary school kid's meltdown from Laura Markham, PhD,...


Expert Bio

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Laura Markham, PhD

Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Laura Markham is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. She earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University and has worked as a parenting coach with countless parents across the English-speaking world, both in person and via phone. You can find Dr. Laura online at, the website of Aha! Moments for parents of kids from birth through the teen years, where you can sign up for her free daily inspiration email.  Dr. Laura lives in New York with her husband and her kids, who are now 17 and 21.

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