Taming a Meltdown

Alan and I have recently joined the 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team. Today I'm sharing a guest post I wrote for their blog. Hope you'll check out their site and learn from many amazing parents and writers. Deb APRIL 2, 2014 (Guest post on 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting)


Becky and I are so excited to have Debra Delulio Jones as our guest today! She’s a mom and the Director of Parenting Adoptees Can Trust (PACT). Even if you don’t have an adopted child, Debra’s recommendations are right on for taming your kid’s tantrum.

For our readers who, live in Colorado, Debra and Alan Jones, and Angie Proctor will be presenting a workshop over at Foothill Church in Littleton, CO, April 11-12, 2014. If you are a parent of a high-risk or adopted child, you will want to attend. (I’m going FOR sure!)

Faith, hope, and love,


Taming a Meltdown by Debra Delulio Jones, M Ed

Daniel slew Goliath. Joshua conquered Jericho. But who can tame an epic meltdown?


Parents (including the one typing this blog), we often get stuck when our child flies into a rage or emotional meltdown. As we run through the file cabinets in our brains searching quick for something that will make it stop, we often first reach for the consequence file. And if we’re really in a mess, we resort to the punishment file. After all, this was the traditional parenting used on us and we didn’t turn out so bad, did we?

While that line of thinking may seem logical, if you are keeping up with new findings in brain science, it’s clear there is a more effective way to handle meltdowns. And… if you happen to be parenting a child who had early risk factors such as pre-maturity, harm in utero, an early medical trauma, abandonment, neglect, or abuse the evidence is overwhelming that a meltdown is not willful behavior, but a temporary state of dysregulation in the child’s brain.

As a Mama, if I can remember a regulated brain can think, listen, learn, be logical, and use language then I can handle meltdowns much more efficiently. Instead of seeing myself as the enforcer of behavioral consequences, I take the co-pilot seat as co-regulator of my child’s brain until he can reach a calm state. It is vital that I understand a dysregulated child has temporarily lost access to his pre-frontal cortex or higher-level thinking.  He is now in a survival state of fight, flight, or freeze and operating in the lower regions of the brain. (Dr. Dan Siegel refers to this as the downstairs brain.)

My response at this moment is critical. If I yell, punish, or threaten what I’m going to do if he does that “ONE MORE TIME” it’s usually game over as this drives my son into further survival strategies. Unfortunately, that’s when I am most likely to lose my higher level thinking as well and somehow believe I can overpower this escalating behavior. (Yes, I have a downstairs brain too!)

It is vital that parents understand dysregulation. Put very simply it is the brain’s stress response system in overdrive; like a foot is stuck on the accelerator of escalating fears and emotions. Deep breathing, deep pressure, and reassuring words and body language help calm the child, but it can take up to twenty minutes for the calming neurotransmitters to kick in once the child is in a state of dysregulation. So we must stay the course and help him. Then, when the child is regulated, we can teach him a better way to handle the situation or express his emotions next time.

I always say, “You can’t teach a downstairs brain.”

This ‘ol school teacher still loves the 3 R’s so next time your child is in a dysregulated state, try Ms. Debbie’s 3 R’s for Meltdown Management.

3 R’s for Meltdown Management

1) Regulate yourself.

2) Regulate your child.

3) Reconnect in relationship.

Here is a related article on this subject by Dr. Karyn Purvis. You may be interested in checking out a couple more of my faves on this subject: Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Curt Thompson.

How do you tame a meltdown?

Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them.

Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.

Ephesians 6:4 (The Message)

Debra Delulio Jones, M.Ed., is a wife, mother, educator, writer, and speaker. Her work includes over twenty years of experience working with special needs children. Debra is the author of God, Are You Nice or Mean? Trusting God . . . After the Orphanage.

For years she felt overwhelmed and ill-equipped to manage the maladaptive and disruptive behavior of her internationally adopted son, Dane. Through a rich partnership with researchers at the TCU Institute of Child Development, Debra and her family have overcome tremendous obstacles.

As Director of PACT, Debra offers in-home intensive parent training and workshops. Find out more about PACT at www.parentingadopteescantrust.com.