When my daughter was about 18 months, I began to notice the typical dreaded toddler behaviors come out. We went through a biting phase, a hitting phase, a “no” phase, you name we probably went through it. I thought I would know what to do when this happened but to my surprise, I had no fucking clue. In order to look for some sort of magic “make your child and angel” template I got to googling, listening to parenting pod casts and reading (mostly listening) to as many books as I could.
One thing that was commonly recommended to try was time out. I have nothing against time out or those who implement it, however, I just felt it wasn’t right for Savanna. I was at a crossroads. I had been trying out the REI method where you basically talk to you kids and tell them not to do things in a respectful way. It worked sometimes but honestly, sometimes it just didn’t do the job. Like when I’d tell my daughter ” I won’t let you hit me’ after smacking me in the face only to have her do it 10 times over. Yea, not happening. I needed a mother solution that was in between that and time out. Cue the calm down chair.
The calm down chair was an idea I thought I came up with but turns out I was like the last to think of it. Here’s how we use it. When our daughter is on the brink of having a meltdown or behaving in an inappropriate way, we give her the chance to self regulate, regroup, and choose again by having her sit in the calm down chair. We put a special chair in the kitchen that is easily accessible from anywhere in our house. When necessary, we tell her it’s time to sit in her chair and count 10 breaths. Surprisingly, she caught on to this super fast. She never fought us going there, never tried to get up. In the beginning we would sit with her and breath. Now she actually takes her self there, counts her breaths and says all better when she’s done. And she is emotionally and physically better! She even tells us to take breaths sometimes! I really liked this idea because I felt that teaching her to take a step back in tough moments is a valuable life skill that I’m pretty sure I didn’t learn until it was too late in life!
There’s so much you can do with the calm down chair concept as kids grow. It builds a solid foundation for teaching mindfulness to children. As my daughter is able to understand more, I plan on created a calm down corner. If you google this, you will find awesome ideas, printouts, and photos of how to help children identify feelings and choose coping skills. We recently made some calm down jars to have by the chair and I would like to get some pinwheels and other sensory toys. However, she doesn’t really use that when she’s in distress. For now, the simpler the better. The calm down chair may not be the cure to all meltdowns, but it is making year 2 that much sweeter.