Ayurvedic Tips and Tricks to Manage Meltdowns
You are out buying groceries and your toddler decides to have a full-blown tantrum right there in the middle of the store, complete with hysterical crying, pouty face, and flaying arms and legs. What is a parent to do in a situation like this?
The truth is meltdowns can happen in many forms to many children. According to Ayurveda, the ancient healing wisdom from India, there are three main types of personalities, and different ways of managing them when they are having a scream-fest with you. Here is your blueprint on how to manage meltdowns as described in Dharma Parenting by Dr. Ketih Wallace & Dr. Fred Travis.
Step 1: Check in with yourself and your child
It’s essential that you first check in with yourself. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Slow down and shift gears so that you are not reactive. Quickly assess if you are out of balance. Are you hungry and irritable? Did you get enough sleep last night? Are you emotional because of a secondary event? Know thyself, and everything else becomes that much easier. Then check in with your child. Ask yourself if they got enough rest, food, or what could be the cause of the tantrum. Consider their brain/body types and what throws them off balance.
According to Dr. Wallace, there are two main dosha types which could be more problematic.
For Vatas: They are curious and natural explorers. If their brain is not occupied they can feel trapped and bored. Give them something different or keep them moving to prevent frustration and over emotionality. Vatas are worrywarts when unbalanced and this can manifest as anxiety attacks or anger filled with tears.
For Pittas: If meals are skipped or if it’s too hot, these kids will become angry, aggressive and start throwing punches. The quickest remedy—ice cream! The coolness will pacify the pitta fire. A good preventative measure is to always carry protein bars for when hunger strikes. Also dress them in layers so you can cool their bodies quickly if the store is too warm.
Step 2: Comfort your child
No matter why your child is upset, let them know right away that you support them. Give them a big hug and let them know you are there for them and that everything will be okay. You guys will figure it out together. In moments like this, Dr. Wallace notes, your child doesn’t have a stable center but you can provide the grounding that is needed through the love in your voice and touch.
Step 3: Change your child’s brain state
When your child is having a meltdown, the rational part of their mind shuts down and the emotional kicks into gear. They might not even hear or process what you are saying because they are so overwhelmed. You have to change their brain-state by changing the imbalance of elements. Try unzipping the pitta child’s jacket to cool them, or find some crafty activity for your vata child, or let your kapha child run around. Bribes with snacks can also prove to be helpful!
Move them physically to a different location. It could be the environment is too loud or agitating. But do this calmly, without scolding or yelling, knowing that you can’t really communicate with them until they have settled down and changed their brain state. Once they have calmed down, you can ask them how they feel. Perhaps even ask them to rate their anger on a scale of 1-10. It always helps to break the tension with a joke!
Step 4: Give choices
Another tactic that Dr. Wallace suggests is that once your child is calmed down, allow them to make choices. Ask them, “should we finish shopping or go home?” Or if you must finish shopping then ask, “should we start with the pasta aisle or the produce?” Or you could divert their attention to a non-triggering subject and ask them questions about school or their friends.
Step 5: Enforce consequences
Hopefully, thanks to the previous steps your child has learned how to calm down without things getting too messy. However if the meltdown has become volcanic then you have to provide consequences. First give them a choice to calm down and leave the store together. If they refuse, explain matter-of-factly that there are consequences, but be clear that it’s not a punishment. The important thing is for the consequences to be immediate and appropriate.
Step 6: You’re the coach
Coaching doesn’t just happen in the game, but before and after. In the same way, don’t educate your child about their brain/body types in the middle of a meltdown. Before and after, explain to them how they can stay in balance and what to avoid. Dr. Wallace states, that for young children, you can simply say things like “if you stay out in the sun too long, you always get hot. When this happens, try going to the shade and having some water to cool down.” After a meltdown has occurred, discuss the events with your child and clearly explain why you enforced the consequences you chose. Don’t lecture and allow for your child to have self-reflection without guilt or shame. Good parenting means inspiring your child to do better and reinforcing positive behavior.
As a coach/parent, you must always stay alert and pay attention. Intervene early if you sense a meltdown is on the way and give your child your undivided attention. Even if you are in the middle of making dinner, you can turn off the stove for a minute and give a quick hug and say, “ I know you are upset and I want to help you work this out. As soon as we finish dinner, can we talk about this?”
Dr. Wallace advises, that if the challenges you face become too much too handle, learn from other parents, blogs, and if needed consult with a family counselor.
Read the first article in this series from YogaUOnline and Supriya Venkatesan- What is Your Child's Brain/Body Type?
Read more about Ayurveda brought to you by YogaUOnline and Melina Meza-You Are What You Eat: The Seven Dhatus in Ayurveda.
Supriya Venkatesan is a freelance writer based in Princeton, NJ. She has written for Forbes, The Washington Post, TIME, Huffington Post, and elsewhere. She holds a MS in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and a BA in Media & Communications from Maharishi University. When not wiring articles, or writing for her memoir based on her military deployment to Iraq, you can find her engrossed in meditation or chasing her toddler. You can learn more about her at www.supriya.ink or follow her on Facebook where she posts inspirational articles.
Dr. Robert Keith Wallace received his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of California at Los Angeles and did his postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School. His seminal papers published in Science, the American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American, showed that Transcendental Meditation technique, produced a fourth major state of consciousness different than waking, sleeping, or dreaming. Dr. Wallace was the founding President of Maharishi University of Management and established the first Maharishi AyurVeda Clinics in the United States.
Dr. Frederick Travis is Professor of Maharishi Vedic Science, Chair of the Department of Maharishi Vedic Science, Dean of the Graduate School, and Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition. He earned an MS and PhD in Psychology from Maharishi University of Management, and a BS in Design and Environmental Analysis from Cornell University.