Methods to help 6 year old calm down?

Jeannine - posted on 06/23/2011 ( 10 moms have responded )

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We have a VERY high-spirited six year old girl. She is very bright, very energetic, and very emotional. Also, very persistent. She is also very loving and thoughtful and wants very much to do the "right" thing. An example of her who she is: last year she was going to run a kiddie race at a 4th of July celebration and right before it was her turn to run she got so worked up about potentially losing that she actually crossed the "finish" line last. (There were no "prizes" Each kid just got a popsicle at the end of it. I even told her she didn't have to race. It was no big deal. It was supposed to be fun, so if she wasn't having fun, she didn't have to do it. Then the choice of running or not contributed to the meltdown.) We've tried so many things to help her calm down--time out, deep breaths, happy thoughts, encouragement, count to 10/20/30. (I model that a lot!) But mostly when she gets worked up, she goes from 0-1000 in 3 seconds and it's hard to even communicate with her until the emotions run out. This makes discipline hard because when she does behave inappropriately, she melts down completely before any consequences or conversation can take place. It also ties my patience. Right now she earns a coin at the end of the day (fake, plastic) that goes into a good behavior bucket at the end of the day, if she has good behavior throughout the day. She can then use her "coins" to "buy" experiences. (Trip to ice cream store, an art day, museum, etc.) This is working fairly well & she usually knows why she hasn't earned a coin. But, she still melts down & I don't think this is "bad" behavior. She just gets worried and overwhelmed. I'm at a loss with how to really help her with this & it prevents her from learning new things. Suggestions?

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Karli - posted on 06/24/2011

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Hello,

in the beginning of the book raising your spirited child, she lists several personality traits: intensity, perception, sensitivity, adaptability, energy and a few others. Then she asks you to rate them on a scale for severe or mild. My son is high energy, intensity, he is beyond determined and very perceptive, but he is not sensitive and he can adapt to changes without many issues. Then she asks you to rate yourself...very interesting, I am a lot like my son. She then describes each trait and puts them into different scenarios and gives dozens of strategies on how to help BOTH of you cope and how to predict and prevent some meltdowns. It all stems from children understanding and learning how to describe their own very strong emotions. Children are not born understanding what frustration feels like or how to deal with it. Since my 4 yr son is high intensity, when he can't get something to work he gets angry very quickly. I have learned to recognize it before it escalates and he has also learned and he can say I'm frustrated and I need to do something else for a while. It took me about 8-9 months before we got to that point. She also talks about extrovert and introverts but not in the way of shyness or outgoing, but it's a way in which children will draw their energy. Extroverts, like my son, draw their energy from a crowd. When we have a family gathering, sit in a crowded doctor's office, at a fair he can literally suck the energy from those around him and he is pumped up, he can light a room with his energy and his intensity leaving everyone around him exhausted just watching him. Introverts need a quiet space away from the crowds because it will literally suck the energy from them and they need downtime to recharge their batteries, it teaches you how to set up those zones and how to teach your kids to recognize that they need to be alone or to be around others. We are still working on it everyday. It is a process. It is a really good book and it gives you so many tools.



Raising an emotionally intelligent child was the key to make it all work together. Children don't understand emotions or how to deal with them. He says that teaching them what they are feeling at any moment gives the words to describe them as opposed to actions( i.e tantrums, hitting, screaming...etc) Do it when they are calm, playing at the park. You literally say "hey you are feeling so happy right now, can you feel that?" and it makes them take note of the sensations that are in their bodies. The same when you catch them feeling sad, angry, frustrated..etc. After a short while you ask them what they are feeling and see if they can recognize it and name it. Then he gives so many scenarios on how to teach a child and parent to cope with a meltdown. First acknowledge your own emotions and take a minute to get yourself down. I have told both of my kids that I need a time out to calm myself down and I'll be right back, leaving them and going into a different room, count to 10, take a few deep breaths and literally chant to myself that they are not trying to drive me over the edge, they have been hijacked by their emotions and they need my help to get them back down. I have sat beside both of my kids who were on the floor screaming saying to them" you are very angry right now, can you feel the angry inside you. You have every right to be angry but this is not how we deal with it properly. We have to get ourselves calmed down and then we can figure out what to do with this together. Walk them through some calming techniques. If they don't calm themselves I'll tell them that maybe they need to be alone for a minute, if they say no I'll ask them if they want a hug, if they say no I'll ask if they want me to hold their hand. If I give them a choice it distracts them slightly from the moment, sometimes enough to get them to refocus. I'll say do you want a hug or to be alone? They will choose one or the other, if they scream at me I tell them that they are too angry and I'll come back in a minute. Once they get calmed down I can sit with them and ask what happened, how they felt and how we can do better next time. I have explained to my son that he is special because he feels things so strong and I have taught him to understand his traits and we are learning how to cope and recognize early signs of losing his control. I see so many posts on here about how to deal with tantrums and meltdowns, they are given oodles of advise like lock them in their rooms and ignore them. The books describe what happens when they don't learn how to deal with emotions and it was like me when I was a teenager...not what I want for my kids..or me...lol. I don't use rewards or punishments because they learn to expect it from everyone. The only time my kids have a time out is to calm themselves because they have gotten too intense. I don't think that an emotion outburst should be punished. I have emotional outbursts and I want something to calm me down and talk to me, to work out what I'm feeling and why, not tell me to be quiet or offer me a sticker if I shut-up. I really do recommend these books and I really feel good as a parent when I use these methods. I'm not saying that it's perfect every time and some days are good mommy days and others..well not so much...My kids say that monster mom needs to go to bed and nice mommy can get up. It keeps me in check of my own emotions and how I'm treating them. Check them out of your library and give them a quick look over, it really is worth it.



I hope that helps a little and isn't too long winded or hokey sounding...lol.

Karli - posted on 06/23/2011

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This sounds like my son. Every parenting technique I had failed dismally so I went on a hunt and found out about spirited children and emotion coaching. It has saved my relationship with both of my kids and I am becoming the parent I want to be...on most days..lol..I will strongly recommend 2 books, Raising your spirited child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and Raising an emotionally intelligent child by John Gottman. I promise it will make a big difference in your lives.

Lissa - posted on 06/23/2011

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I forgot to add we treat that kind of behaviour like any other hurt/upset, if she starts having a meltdown just hold her, hug her, rub her back and soothe. When she is calm you can deal with the issues, I treat it like this because when my daughter did this to me it was just the same as her crying because she's worried/scared.

Jeannine - posted on 06/24/2011

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Dana, I hear your concerns about the behavior bucket/coins thing. I have thought about that also. It isn't tied to wether or not she has a meltdown or becomes emotional. It was specifically put into place because of some specific behavior around not wanting to do anything my husband or I asked of her. (Like cleaning her room after the day is done, etc.) Asking her to simply put away her books was causing a meltdown or a whine-fest of "I never get to do anything fun!" And it was preventing us from actually doing fun things as a family. So, we wanted to show her that "no, life isn't always fun but if we do the things around the house that need to get done, then we get to do fun things." She's in a rather argumentative stage. She truly does not want us to tell her the sky is blue. She will come up with a much better color to describe it. (She is highly imaginative and sometimes she blames things on the "fairies" that live in our house. They have names, lives in specific corners, etc. Funny though, they never help her clean up.) She can take two hours to put books back on the shelf when complaining about it first is taken into account. So, we wanted to connect it to something concrete she can earn. I probably should not have wrapped that into my original post. It is really a bit different than her becoming overwhelmed by her emotions. Thanks, though. I'll keep thinking about it. We have very specific ideas about allowances. So, that is not ever tied to doing chores, etc.

Lissa - posted on 06/23/2011

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Have you tried talking to her about emotions when she is completely calm? Try sitting down with her and discussing what happens, find out why these things happen. Give her examples of situations and talk to her about how she would feel if this happened. Talk to her about how it's normal to feel scared worried etc and ways to deal with it. Watch out for any signs of discomfort from her and start talking her through it before she gets to meltdown point, talk in a very quiet, calming voice. If she is getting worked up about things she may not be good and or it isn't working out perfectly then show her how there are some things you are not good at. I have an emotional perfectionist we did a number of things that have calmed her. If it's school work we have asked her to make up sums and spelling for us, then deliberately got some wrong so she sees you can't be right all the time. When it came to games we talked before hand about how it's supposed to be fun whether you are good at it or not. At first when ever she was losing she got very stressed so we stopped explaining that it wasn't fun anymore so we would leave it until another day. She used to get very upset if she broke a rule so we talked about how everyone breaks rules sometimes and when we do we think about how we should have done it differently then move on. She also gets stressed about others breaking rules again we had a talk about how others have to take responsibility for themselves and it's not up to her to "make" people follow the rules. We spent a lot of time talking about how hard she tried as opposed to that's great you won. like I'm so pleased you tried hard, you should feel proud of yourself.
It's not easy but it paid off she came second in a race at er sports day and was beaming with pride, a year ago she would have been crying.

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That makes more sense. Thanks for explaining more to me, Jeannine.

Karli -- THANK YOU! I'm going to get the book. I have a feeling it can be VERY useful in dealing with my daughter, especially at this stage in her development. She's almost 3 and her emotions are on a roller coaster daily. I THOUGHT I had been doing a good job of helping her identify and deal with them, up until recently.

Jeannine - posted on 06/24/2011

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Thank you! We have read "Raising Your Spirited Child" and I think I need to read it again. My daughter is moving into a different stage of development (obviously) and we need to read it from the perspective of her being six with more school-aged challenges. She worries a lot about failure, which I think is coming from just comparing herself to others. We try very hard to point out her accomplishments and that everyone learns differently. She's in a Montessori school. So it is not coming from the environment at school or the teachers. She just notices what others are doing and gets frustrated when she can't do it, but becomes too scared to try or work at it. She also now has a little sister who is starting to assert her own personality and it has changed our family dynamic. (Again, obviously) But, I have not read "Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child" I have heard of it though. I hadn't thought of how they would work together. I'm going to get both of them. My daughter has come a long way and she definitely talks a lot about her emotions. And yes, spirited is the word. One of the best things about that book is that it gave me positive ways of speaking about my child's behavior. Thanks again. I'll check out those book.

Jane - posted on 06/23/2011

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We would hold our son until he was calm enough to be spoken with. If we were in a noisy place we would go someplace quiet first because he is super-sensitive to noise.

We also used various forms of the reward method, too, so he could earn treats through good behavior. In addition, he started anger management classes at school and also with our psychologist.

[deleted account]

WOW! Your daughter sounds EXACTLY like my 7 year old niece. I'm not kidding. I wonder and I'm guessing that it's quite possibly to do with their age?!!

I don't have any first hand experience with a 6 year old, but when my 2 year old gets riled up or is having a hard time communicating and I see her getting increasingly more frustrated (meltdown about to commence), I'm famous for saying, "use your words!" and then I'll take deep breaths and ask her to do the same. Getting down on their level always helps too.

I'm not suggesting that I know ANYTHING about disciplining a 6 year old because I don't, but I'm so impressed that you're able to keep your cool and recognize that she's not actually being "bad". Labeling a child that way can be SO detrimental.

One other thing....and I hope I don't offend you. *I* would be concerned about the message that the reward (coin, good behaviour bucket etc.) is sending her. Is it putting more pressure on her? Is it teaching her to behave for the sole purpose of receiving "rewards", OR possibly even teaching her to suppress her emotions? These things might not happen but they're things that I think about in regards to rewards.

I agree with Lissa. I think talking to her and helping her understand the different emotions and helping her get to the bottom of why she's acting out the way she does will be THE MOST beneficial, and I think she's at an age where she be able to be receptive to that conversation. Maybe talk about things that make her mad, explain the difference between mad and frustrated, sad etc. Opening a dialogue when she's able to be receptive is the best thing you can do.

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