Plan for retreat - in stages

As a parent, we all face that meltdown moment. Sometimes it's us, sometimes it's a kid. Sometimes we are at home, and others we are out.

When you are home, you have options and tools that aren't always at hand when you are out. What do you do when you can't "send a kid to their room"?

Sometimes it's best to start your way backwards from "the nuclear option", which in most circumstances would be just to call it a day and go home. Once you identify the most drastic solution, you can find something a little less drastic, then a little less so you can find an effective solution without becoming a tyrant issuing threats.  

The following are suggestions for dealing with bad behavior while out, from most drastic to least drastic. I usually start with the worst case scenario, and try and cut it in half, then in half again until I find my solution. You want this to be a teachable moment that you can refer back to, and it's embarassing to refer back to a moment when you also lost your "stuff". 

Call it a day and go home

Bad behavior can't be contained, you've tried everything else, everyone is fed up, you are getting the stink eye from people around you.  

First of all, don't say you are going to do this unless you mean it. Then if you are going with this option, do so in a calm and thoughtful way. Make everything you say a shirt calm statement of fact. Use your lack of reaction as a tool, sometimes the things left unsaid have the strongest impact. Also, choose quiet in the car on the way home, don't offer up distractions. Let them really think about what just happened.  

Your goal at this point is to get yourself home as best you can, without raising your blood pressure. Whatever just happened, it's done, let's cut our losses and move along. Make a point of making this a teachable moment, one you can refer back to.  

Step outside

This one is a huge reality check. Taking the trouble person outside, changing their surroundings, taking s moment to get some fresh air, that first step to the car can often shake a person out of their current circumstsnce. It's a chance to reassess without such an audience, and to proceed calmly regardless if you go back inside or head home. 

I love this for restaurants. They can get loud and hot setting tempers high. A chance to step outside, quiet things down, take that breath of fresh air can often reset many meltdown. And if not, you just walk right back in and ask for the bill. I've even asked waiters to pack up my food, take the kids for a walk around the block, and pick up the food to finish at home.   

Time out

We are all familiar with this one, but usually we have a dedicated spot at home, so what do you do when you are out?  

This can be a tough one. Usually I look for some way to separate the person with the issue to give them the chance to have a little quiet time. Not too far away, you want to keep an eye on them, bit far enough to stop interactions and afford them a little quiet. This might be a different table at an emptier restaurant, it might also be a quiet corner of the playground, or next to you with your hand on their shoulder quietly enjoying some view. 

This just needs to be a meditative moment to collect yourselves.  

Stop for a snack

So often we get moody because we are hungry. Taking a few quiet minutes to sit and snack (if you catch it early enough) can solve so many issues. A cookie can heal many wounds and put a smile back on your face. 

Designate a task

Sometimes boredom can spark issues. You hope as a parent that the kids will put their boredom to some constructive use, but when they put their energies to a destructive use - that's an issue. Sometimes avoiding meltdowns is more about occupying their boredom with a task or a project. Maybe a treasure hunt, maybe a counting game, could be anything really, just something to occupy their efforts. 

Put them in charge

Sometimes all the distraction they need is to be put in charge - let them lead the way, make the decisions, read the map, order the appetizer. Sometimes we forget what a treat this can be, and how much it's appreciated.