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meltdownI have worked with children with various isms for many years and have had a lot of training on how to deal with behavioral issues. I will watch parents dealing with their children experiencing a meltdown in public and think of all of “my” strategies that would work so much better. Apparently, I think my way is the right way.

This philosophy of mine was put to the test recently with a young five-year-old boy that was participating in our Sensory Learning Program.  He came to us because he had been suspended from Kindergarten numerous times for angry and aggressive behavior, not only with other students but also with his teacher.

“My” Strategies Put to the Test

On this particular day, “Jack” got very upset with me because I would not allow him to bring one more dinosaur to the group of about 25 dinosaurs that he already had, into his therapy session. I said, “You have plenty”. He did not agree. He began running through the office, throwing whatever he could get his hands on and climbing onto the shelves where the toys were stored. His mom tried to pull him off the shelves and get him to calm himself. At this point, “Jack” became violent; hitting and punching his mom, even pulling her hair. I was very concerned that he was going to hurt her.

Feeling as if I should intervene, I pulled “Jack” off his mom and advised her to wait in the other room.

My first line of defense was to try and distract him. That didn’t work; I ended up getting punched in the stomach.

Second approach, hold his arms and firmly tell him that this behavior was unacceptable, and I would not have him hurting his mom or destroying my office. I got kicked in the face with that one.

Last line of defense, deep pressure massage. I had managed to get him to lie down and began to apply pressure to his arms and legs. It seemed to be helping – somewhat.

At this point, “Jack’s” mom came back into the room and saw that her son was still struggling. She reached down and told me that we needed to tickle him, saying that is what she usually does to calm him. We both began the tickle process and to my amazement, it was working.  In an instant, he was happier and relaxed. Mom then took him into her lap and began tickling him some more and telling funny stories. Within minutes, he was ready to start his therapy session.

Lessons Learned

I learned a valuable lesson that day. I may have knowledge of how to handle behavior issues with children, but parent or caregiver experience for the individual child that they love and know better than anyone can trump my knowledge any day. I should have allowed her the opportunity to deal with her son in the way that she knew was best. At the time of the meltdown, my heart broke for her, and I was fearful that she was going to be hurt.

Maybe she appreciated the break.

Maybe it gave her time to step back and collect herself.

Or maybe she laughed to herself hearing how I handled the situation and thought, “Yeah, good luck with that Margie!”

My takeaway point – Parents, “professionals” do have great information and skills when working with children with behavior issues, but never underestimate your parental knowledge when it comes to your child.