It's Worth A Shot

The Key To Handling Tantrums Is To “Just Let It Happen,” Says Early Childhood Educator

Dealing with a meltdown? It's a bad time to "talk about it."

TikTok relationship expert Jola Jovani asks her husband, a childhood education expert, how they hand...

Meltdowns are inevitable. Even the most even-tempered, happy, and adjusted kids will, at one point or another, find themselves at a breaking point. Long days (including good ones) full of stimulation of even the best variety can trigger big feelings that aren't easily explained. That's why even trips to the most magical place on Earth, Disney World, often end with a crying or screaming young child. It's why we, as adults, get headaches on our wedding days or lose our cool over a pile of dishes in the sink. So, how do you handle these meltdowns? According to an early childhood expert on TikTok, you don't try to "talk about it" during the heat of the moment.

Relationship coach Jolana Jovani and her husband Russell, an early childhood education expert, often post simple question-and-answer conversations on TikTok, sharing insight from each of their respective areas of expertise. "My love," Jolana asks Russell in a recent convo, "as someone who studied early childhood education, what is something you stand by in parenting?"

To which Russell begins, "When our youngest has an emotional breakdown, we just let it happen."

Uh... what? You just let your kid spiral?

Yep! That's what he said. Russell goes deeper into their psychological reasoning for this parenting choice, explaining, "It's completely ineffective to try and modify the behavior because all rational control is gone. The reasoning part of the brain is just shut down."

Like telling someone to "calm down" when they're upset, expecting a heart-to-heart during a temper tantrum or meltdown isn't helpful. As adults, we've learned to give each other space during tough moments. We know to isolate ourselves behind a locked bedroom door or in the privacy of a hot shower while we cry out our feelings. And, in a healthy relationship, our partners will give us the space we need to process our emotions.

Yet somehow, we rarely give our kids that same courtesy. As soon as a meltdown ensues, we feel the need to force our kids to talk about it. We want them to start learning from it sometimes before they've even figured out why it's happening. But mid-tantrum or meltdown is the worst time to discipline or process. Deep down, we already know that. Still, it's nice to have an expert reminder.

So, what do you do mid-meltdown?

"We either just give them some time and space to cool off, or we offer them hugs and affection until they feel soothed," Russell suggests. "The actual teaching opportunity comes after the tantrum has passed and the connection has been reestablished."

Even during a tantrum, you can ask your child what they want. "Do you want me to stay or to leave you alone?" If they're very little or you're in public, you may not feel comfortable leaving them entirely to their own devices. But offering to sit on the other side of a bench or in a nearby chair will give them the space to cool off without risking their safety.

Hugs and affection might also look different depending on the kid. For some, a simple light hand on a shoulder is enough. For sensory-seeking kids, sometimes a long, tight squeeze or hug can ground them better than anything else. If you're new to the world of meltdowns or tantrums, you might not hit the right note on your first try. Listen to your child and take note of their body language to figure out if the help you're offering is the help they need.

Don't forget to regulate yourself.

If you're feeling especially anxious or overwhelmed by this outburst, your child will sense that — which won't help to calm down. Remember to take deep breaths, sip on some water, or count to 10 to help ground yourself first.

Most importantly, come to the situation with patience. Meltdowns aren't just turned off and on quickly, despite how it seems when they start. It will take time for your kid to regain their composure, especially if you can't remove them from the stimuli. Just keep breathing and counting. And don't be afraid to trade off with a co-parent or another trusted, well-loved adult if necessary.