Putting my own needs aside during a meltdown

meltdown Sep 01, 2021
Meltdown blog post

I’ll set the scene. Luca and I are in the garden, we’re mowing the lawn and playing around, my wife is busy on a work call. As i’m finishing up mowing the lawn, Luca takes himself off to our decking area to play, our decking has a table with a glass top which up until now has never been an issue, you can see where I’m going but I’ll continue :)

I’m pushing the mower away from the decking towards the other end of the garden. As I turn and head back towards the decking I see Luca trying to climb onto the glass table:

“Luca, can you stay on the decking please”

He ignores me, continues to climb and steadily makes progress, danger aside, his climbing skills are commendable :). Anyway, he chooses not to listen, so in the interest of safety I react quickly, I throw the mower down, sprint over to Luca and gently remove him from the table.

“Phew. That was close! Luca we need to stay on the decking as the table has a glass surface which you could fall through"

Shocked at my quick reaction a meltdown starts, I’d say we enter at level 5 with 10 being ultimate dis-regulation. 

“Go away!” he says, “I want to sit on the table!”

“I can’t let you sit on the table Luca, I need you to be safe”

I’d say we escalate to a level 6 with some tears. Our neighbours are in their garden so my immediate thought was to pick Luca up and help him regulate his meltdown inside. Naturally I want to bring him away from the environment, in my head all I’m thinking is

“toddler, glass table climbing, danger”

I know taking him inside would escalate things further, so I decide to put my own needs aside, ignore the fact the neighbours are within earshot and try to engage with him. At this stage I’m a little confused, I know he knows the glass table is dangerous, so why does he want to climb on it?

He hasn’t reached complete dis-regulation as of yet so we are able to engage with each other. After a chat I learn the real reason behind his desire to get on the table. In short, he explained that the decking was his pirate ship, the table was his bed and it was his bed time, so he wanted to get into bed.

At this point I’m so glad I kept him outside so we could chat. If I took him inside the meltdown would have escalated to a 10 and there would have been no room for discussion.

I feel like this was a great example as naturally his behaviour may have been perceived as “mischievous” or even “naughty”, but by calmly communicating with him, there was a perfectly valid explanation. Now of course, regardless of the table being his bed, I can’t allow him to climb on it, but at least now I understand the why, so I can chat about it with him a little more.

Me: “Ah what a cool idea. So we’re on your pirate ship now, am I ok to sail on the ship too?”

Luca: “Yes”

Me: “Ah thank you. Now if we use the table as a bed we may break the glass, can I show you what happened to me when I played with glass when I was younger?”

It was at this point the meltdown completely stopped and he was really interested to find out what happened to me. I’ll admit, I ran with the story and may have embellished things a little :) I showed him a few small scares on my hand and chin, and explained how I hurt myself whilst playing with glass as a child. 

And that was literally that. The meltdown stopped. He went back to playing and I went back to mowing the lawn. Rock and roll. My calm prevented the situation from escalating. Controlling my impulse prevented me from rushing inside and escalating things further. And by doing this, it opened the door for connection.

I was able to fully understand why he wanted to climb on the table, and then I was able to explain why we can’t climb on the table. Furthermore, this challenging moment remained just that, a challenging moment. As parents we know full well how these moments can escalate quickly into huge episodes that can completely change the course of our day, that wasn’t the case this time. We were able to discuss things, have our moment and continue on with our day.

Hopefully, a few of you will find this helpful. We are all winging it as parents, so I love to share these things as it keeps them at the forefront of my mind. Here’s to hoping I’m able to respond in a similar manner next time. 

Cheers all,



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