|Image by storem on Flickr|
She was so upset. Tears were streaming and she was shaking with anger and disappointment. I gently tried to hug her, letting her know that I was with her and would support her. She instantly turned and grabbed my hands and said, "Pushing game, Mami!"
I sat facing her and we interlocked hands. Then she tried with all her might to scoot me backwards by pushing on my hands. I would remain upright while she pushed as hard as she could against my hands. Eventually, I would fall back with her on top of me and we would both laugh. She immediately asked me to do it again. We repeated the game several times.
I've loved this game for years. Even when pregnant, it isn't hard on me physically. It takes little space. It doesn't take too much energy. But it is perfect for overwhelmed little ones! It gives all of the benefits of a full-blown tantrum (working out large muscle groups, releasing emotion, etc) but is done in a way that connected us with loving touch (instead of perhaps hitting a pillow). Each time she did it she was more relaxed. By the end she was all smiles.
I see advice so often that tells parents to ignore meltdowns, to shun or isolate a child who is overwhelmed by his own emotions, lest he somehow learn that it will be rewarded. Is it any wonder that so many adults shut down when they have intense negative feelings? We've been taught to explode when they are too much and then to stuff everything down and "be sweet" and act as if nothing happened.
I am so excited to see children who are learning healthy ways to express themselves, who know that even in those intense moments they can connect with someone close to them, and that they can fully process their feelings without shame or isolation until they are easily manageable. If you are interested in other tools for tantrums, or in our perspective on them, check out this post. :)