Managing your Child’s Meltdowns

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Kids get angry and don’t always choose the right time or place to lose it so I looked to a very excellent clinical child psychologist named David Gottlieb, who has written a book called Anger Overload in Children, for advice. He also has a parenting blog called

Anger Overload is an intense rage reaction to some frustration, and the anger is out of proportion. Usually this is because the child misperceives or exaggerates the significance of a disappointment. For example, if a parent says their child cannot play video games today or have a friend over to play, any child might be disappointed, but the child with anger overload goes into a rage that can last from minutes or hours. The child does not keep the disappointment in perspective. This child might feel if he can’t have a friend over today, then the friend will stop liking him.

Anger overload is a problem when a child loses it because he can scream hateful things or throw things. His outbursts frequently can last minutes or even hours. We need to contain this rage because this problem can get in the way later in life.

Parents can intervene in the early stages or after the fury has subsided. During the overload phase, it is best to say or do nothing, unless someone is getting physically hurt. Your child is not thinking rationally. If you recognize a pattern for when your child is more likely to lose it, you can intervene by lowering your child’s expectations….like if your child loses it when it’s time to turn off the video games on school night, one solution is not to play video games after dinner. Try an emotional distraction when your child starts to show signs of anger….start a game your child loves or do a calming activity. For some it might be music on the ipod, a bike ride or yoga.

During an outburst it is not wise to talk about consequences because it will cause most children to escalate. When things have calmed down is when you explain that family rules have been broken and that you will be punishing the behavior such as swearing or throwing things. If you can ignore your child during his outburst this in itself is a consequence. Don’t pay attention to his words especially if they are the meanest things he can say to you. When he calms down then you start listening and talking to him and issuing a consequence.

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