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Counting to Calm

by LJ Dovichi | May 8th, 2008 | Preschool

There’s nothing quite like a three-year-old having a meltdown — the huge alligator tears running down his or her face and the loud wails that can be heard reverberating throughout a hundred mile radius. You know the symptoms well — tired, hungry, bored — but you never really know what’s going to set it off or when it’s going to strike. The only thing you’re certain of is that without fail it will be in the most public place possible, so as your three-year-old screams you can feel the weight of all those eyes watching you. When you’re rational, you know those eyes watching are sympathetic to your plight, having already been there and done that with their own children.  But during the moment when you’re trying to calm down your little one, you’re absolutely convinced that they are condemning you and your parenting skills.

There are no cookie cutters for kids and what works for one child might not work for the next, but here is a sure fire way I found to deal with my three-feet-of-fun when he’s wound up — counting to ten. It occurred to me as I sat in a doctor’s office with a screaming child that if counting to ten helped adults when they’re upset then why wouldn’t it work for kids?

I looked at three-feet and asked, “What’s after one?”

Through his crying he answered, “Two.”

“What’s after two?”

“Three.” The caterwauling had stopped, although tears still ran down his cheeks.

“What’s after three?” And so on.

We counted and by the time we hit ten, he was smiling and we’d discovered a new game. Now whenever he gets overwhelmed or overly upset, we sit down and count to ten. The hysterics end a lot sooner, and it is calming for me as well. Instead of getting upset with him for being so upset — we’re both calm and ready to handle whatever comes next.

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