There has been a lot of tantrum throwing in my house lately, and I'm embarrassed to say that we don't have a toddler in the family. My children are toddler-esque in their rants. The pre-teen and teenager have been crying hysterically, complaining, panicking, yelling, stomping their feet, fighting, and talking back, no - screaming back on a regular basis. My daughter's body language tells me when she is crossing to the dark side. She slowly raises her right hand in the air and releases the volcanic eruption with her voice. To make matters worse, my husband struggles to handle these situations calmly. He joins right in on the hysteria and then I am faced with three out of control family members. Should I seek shelter or attempt to calm the storm?
Last one standing, Where's the lifeboat?
Put on your foul weather gear for this one... Let's face it, young children are not the only ones who throw fits, and neither are teenagers. Brain science can help us understand a lot about tantrums. At Saint Clement School, teachers, parents, and students participate in,a five minute exercise which can change lives.
See Dr. Daniel Segal's video:
When we are in our thinking brain, we are able to think clearly, function properly, and learn. When our lid is flipped, we go straight to emotions and to our fight, flight, or freeze response. We need to cool-out, refuel, recharge, and plan for what's next. A positive time out is needed to get us back into our thinking brain. Students learn to be aware of signs in their body that they may be flipping. They mention clenched teeth, a bad feeling in the pit of their stomach, steam coming out of their ears, etc. Teachers may notice tight raised shoulders or an accelerated heartbeat. Mr. Clementino claims that he can feel his blood pressure rising. Whatever the cue, tuning into escalation is the key to de-escalation.
Mirror neurons in the brain explain why Mr. Clementino goes straight to the ceiling when the teeny Clementines are escalating. We mirror the expressions and emotions of others. When Mr. Clementino feels his blood pressure rise, he needs to use de-escalation tips to prevent an adult sized tantrum. Fifth, sixth and seventh graders watched this video on mirror neurons.
My advice to you is this; instead of jumping ship, withstand the storm. How? Talk with your family about flipped lids. Our brains all have the capacity to flip. Prepare for rough seas by reinforcing positive time out. Do we prepare for a storm during the storm? No, we prepare when seas are calm. We talk with children about flipped lid and positive time-out when their brains are in thinking mode, and we agree on a strategy that may keep them from flipping. Everyone needs a cool out spot. The spot may be a comfortable nook at home or it may be an image that we visit no matter where we are. I often model going to my spot, "I'm about to flip and I can't talk about this right now. I can talk with you when I am calm." If they flip anyway, that's ok too, since they will have a cool-out space waiting for them. In theory, they will also have a parent dressed in foul weather gear who will weather the storm. When the storm passes, it is time to talk.
Don't give up the ship,
Here are some resources I've found helpful related to flipped lid. Please enjoy!
Daniel Siegel, The Teenage Brain
Daniel Siegel, Connecting to Calm