Finding Clarity When You’re Baffled By Your Child’s Behavior

Angry outbursts. Meltdowns. Tantrums. It can be confusing. Use these questions to help you understand your child's behavior.


That’s what started it.

You added raisins instead of blueberries and she was off like a rocket.

All attempts to diffuse the meltdown were useless.

It’s calm now (though you feel like you were run over by a truck). Taking some deep breaths you wonder…

What just happened here?

Feeling Stuck

Unfortunately, this was only one of many mornings like this. If it wasn’t the oatmeal, it would have been something else. It seems like you can barely make it through a day without an epic meltdown.

It’s exhausting.

And confusing.

You’ve tried timeouts, taking things away, grounding. She doesn’t seem to care at all.
You read about reward charts. So, you implement one. It works for ½ a day.
You threaten. You bribe. You beg.

And still, every day is the same.

From Your Child’s Perspective

Most of the time, your child is unable to communicate clearly what’s going on inside. Either they don’t have the words, or they don’t have the ability to organize and verbalize the things that led up to the meltdown.

Let’s imagine you could see into your child’s brain, here’s what happened this morning:

I didn’t sleep good last night. Again. I toss and turn. I have bad dreams. I don’t wake up rested.

Then I remembered it was a school day. I really don’t like school. Especially Tuesdays when we have music class. All of those instruments sound like nails on a chalkboard. I want to run out of the classroom just to get some peace. (And sometimes I do!)

It’s also the day they serve fish tacos in the cafeteria. I can’t handle the smell. At. All. I try to pull my sweatshirt over my head to block the smell, but the teachers tell me ‘no hoods allowed at school.’

My handwriting is horrible. My hand gets tired. Everyone else speeds through their spelling lists and I have trouble making the ‘e’s’ look different from the ‘o’s.’

When you finally peel me out of bed and throw me in the bathroom to get ready, I’m punched in the face by my older brother’s body spray. (Yuck! Why do boys wear that?) It’s another smell I CANNOT HANDLE!

The toothpaste tickles my tongue, in a bad way. The new shirt you bought is super-itchy. I hate these pants.

So, by the time I get to the kitchen, I am already stressed to the max. My body cannot handle one more thing. The raisins were minor, I realize. And, on a weekend, it might not have bothered me, but today, it was too much.

I hate melting down like that. Once it get started, I have no idea how to stop. The longer it goes, the more horrible I feel about myself and my behavior. The harder I try to stop, the bigger the emotions get.

I wish I had a way to tell all of this to you, but most of the time, even I don’t realize what’s going on. All I know is that my body feels out of control.”

Finding Clarity

Wouldn’t that be helpful?

Maybe you’ll never get detailed insight like this, but with a little persistence on your part, the picture may become a little clearer.

It starts by being curious, rather than critical of your child’s behavior.

Being willing to love your child past their behavior. Being willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to these epic meltdowns.

It requires that you see these outbursts as signs that your child is struggling and needs your help. (Rather than seeing their behavior as intentionally trying to “push your buttons.”)

    • Start with this list of 25 things that impact your child’s behavior.
    • Then, continue to dig deeper. Either by asking your child for more details or by simply being observant (click the box below for a free printout listing questions to consider).

Maybe you’ll identify some patterns. Maybe you’ll notice something you previously overlooked.

Or, maybe you’ll realize that your child would benefit from the support of a Mental Health Professional, an Occupational Therapist, a Learning Specialist, a Dietitian. Maybe they could use a gym membership, opportunities to be creative, to slow down, or to play.

Eventually, you’ll realize it’s really not about the oatmeal.

Learning to be Curious.

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Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

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