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123: Meltdowns & Fear

By July 14, 2020November 8th, 2023Mastermind Parenting Podcast
123: Meltdowns & Fear

In this week’s conversation, I’m breaking down the concept that anger is rooted in fear and when fear is on the scene, growth cannot occur. When our kids, or frankly anyone, displays meltdown behavior, the anger often feels palpable. It’s scary. Fear is directly linked to explosive meltdown moments.

It’s actually quite normal to have fears. Humans are actually designed to scan our environments for danger. This is called the human negativity bias. So if you’re a person that has many fears, the bottom line is: You’re. Normal.

I think it’s important to understand fear and anger in a way that many of us have never actually thought about. Intense anger is uncomfortable and scary.

Meltdowns feel uncomfortable and scary for kids and grown ups. Whether you’re the person having the meltdown or witnessing it, we all feel out of control.

It can leave parents feeling powerless and this often leads to attempts to control our kids with fear tactics like threats, spanking and punishing. Kids under the age of twelve do NOT improve future behavior through fear tactics.

When fear is running the show, we operate from the lower parts of our brain. We literally become the neanderthal versions of ourselves, designed to merely aggressively grunt, fight and survive.

Obviously, it’s pretty ridiculous to think that our kids will learn from their mistakes when they are in this brain state. It’s also illogical to think we’re going to be effective guides or teachers when we’re in a triggered brain state as well.

This is why absolutely no teaching can happen when any human is having a meltdown. Before the sun can warm, nourish and allow flowers to bloom again, the storm must pass.

Lectures, withholding love, shaming and yelling will not prevent future meltdowns.

As always, thanks for listening, and be sure and head over to Facebook and you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community, where we post tips and tools and do pop up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!

About Randi Rubenstein

Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.

She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.

At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.

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0 (2s):
My name’s Randi Rubenstein and welcome to the Mastermind. Parenting Podcast where we believe when your thoughts grow the conversations in your home flow.

1 (15s):
You’re listening to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast with Randi Rubenstein episode one 23. Hi guys. Well, we are going to continue our month on Meltdowns and this week I want to talk about Fear. Okay. I think that fear is something that many of us have heard, you know, operate from a place of love, not fear, but I don’t know if we’ve unpacked, what fear is really all about and what message is trying to convey to us as thoroughly, as I think we sort of need to ’cause if we want to get underneath, Y Meltdowns happen and understand them from a different, you know, from a different war, more meaningful place, and really get to the root so that we can pull the roots up and plant new seeds, those seeds that come from that loving place, that place of really investigating what’s going on for our kids, helping our kids to feel understood and seen and valued and safe and all of those things.

1 (1m 29s):
I think we have to unpack Fear and I think so many of us operate from a place of fear. And, and what does that mean? You know, I think so often we’ve turned ourselves off to the fear because it’s scary. It’s scary to think about all of the bad stuff that can happen. Right? We’ll do you mean we were faced with this when our kids start to drive at 16 and, and you know, you all of a sudden have your precious child who now has grown into a teenage body and they are getting behind the wheel of a, you know, thousands, several thousand pound steel, a vehicle and going onto the freeway and it’s going to be sandwiched possibly between 18 wheelers.

1 (2m 19s):
So yeah, you were like, Oh, thanks. I wasn’t thinking about it like that. Thanks a lot. You know, it’s scary. It’s super scary. And so every time your kid goes out of the house, you’re you literally could never sleep again in your life because it’s just so scary because all we want to do is we want to keep them safe when we want to protect him. And if you’re a person of color, if you’re a black mom, as I’ve heard recently, not only are you worried about your kid’s going and getting all of the things that the white people are worried about. You’re also worried about God forbid, if they should get pulled over by a police officer. And so what I’ve heard from all the black and Brown mom’s is he’s.

1 (3m 2s):
Yeah. So now we don’t, we don’t have to just worry about that. We also have to start prepping our kids when they are pretty young and about how they have to behave, where their hands need to stay on the wheel and, and a whole, you know, so we, it goes even beyond the basic fears we go into, you know, we go into systemic racist fears, like it’s, it’s deep, it’s deep. So what do most of us do to be able to function and not being in a catatonic state in our lives because the Fear are so paralyzing, what did we do?

1 (3m 41s):
Well, many of us do something called dissociation. And this is a term that I think is very interesting. So the human brain is wired to, to be bathed in and all of the like healthy growing chemicals. So that like our brain, when we, when we were kids, our brains just want to develop. And so any time we are, our, our brains are Bates in, in the chemicals, like the stress hormones. It’s really not healthy for us to stay in that state for a long.

1 (4m 23s):
And so, and so we develop coping skills to get back to a place where we can now be coated and the feel good chemicals, and we can continue growing in, developing the way we were supposed to do is grow and develop. So that’s why I’m, you know, I talked to last week about the Meltdowns and, and, and really what Pointe they serve. There are really a coping mechanism to help you to feel healthy, any person to feel temporarily better when they’re in that super high stress chemical state, because the body knows it’s designed not to stay there for a long, and the brain can not fully function and develop to its optimal capacity, or if it is sitting in a bunch of, of negative chemicals.

1 (5m 9s):
Now it’s interesting. Cause I have heard that a little bit of stress is actually good for us. It can propel us forward. It can increase motivation. So it’s not like we were never supposed to experience stress. Like, like it’s okay. It’s a reason why we have our fight or flight response, right? Like, like from when we were, when we were cave people, if we were faced with a tiger and the jungle, we needed to run fast, fight hard or freeze. And so, and so that, that exists within us for a reason, but we are just not meant to like stay in that place for long periods of time. It’s not healthy for the human body. So, so when we go through feeling fearful and we start to have those, those hormones, you know, the stress hormones going coding our brain, we developed a coping mechanism called dissociation, which causes us basically to like check out.

1 (6m 8s):
So it’s like your, your body is there. Your mind is you’re mind seems like its there, but you’ve actually gone on a spaceship far away. And it’s why I think a lot of people will say, I don’t have many memories from my childhood. And it’s because something happened where that caused a lot of stress hormones to coat your brain. And as a little tiny, it resilient human, your body, figure it out. This coping mechanism called dissociation and, and you just went on a spaceship. So it seemed like your body and brain were right there and you were right there, but you just checked out, checked out so that you didn’t have to stay in that high stressed out state.

1 (6m 50s):
And so the dissociation now has been a pattern in your life for a long time. And, and it’s just a way to kind of like deal with the Fear deal with the stress deal, with the scary stuff. Okay. Now I think it’s also important to understand as humans, the way we were designed is we have one thing to do with really one job. And that is to stay alive, really that’s our job. And that’s why we have the negativity bias where we were always like kind of scanning the environment for things to be scared of things, to be aware of things that seem dangerous, right?

1 (7m 34s):
Like danger will Robinson. That’s why it, when you ask people, what don’t you want or what don’t you want to do or what don’t you like? We can quickly reel off usually like, you know, a gazillion things. And then when you say, but what do you want, what do you want quite often, people, people don’t know how to answer that. I don’t know, but I don’t. No, I have to think on that. You know, I don’t know because, because we were designed to be scanning for all the negative stuff. So the whole field of positive psychology is a very interesting field because all it means is that like, you know, there’s the thing called neuro-plasticity where we have learned that the human brain, like we were so evolved now, as, you know, as creatures that we have even figured out how we can change that, how we can like bring more conscious thought into our current experience in life.

1 (8m 33s):
So like we’ve learned that we can sort of like a manipulate our own brains, right? So we can, we, we have this negativity bias, but we can do all of these practices. Like when you hear people talking about the grad to practices or the daily affirmation practices or meditation, or, you know, all of these different practices, we have all these amazing practices that sort of like counteract that negativity bias, but just understand are natural. Go-to is the scanning scanning, scanning for danger coming from a place of fear when it gets to be too fearful, having this coping mechanism that was developed when we were kids of checking out and going on a spaceship in our brain to keep ourselves safe, to keep us, to, to Recode our brain with, with a feel good chemicals that promote growth versus the, you know, staying in that state of stress in high cortisol for too long, which impedes growth.

1 (9m 40s):
So, you know, we are complex creatures, but we really were designed just to stay alive. So the Fear OK. The fear is really at the root of so much for so many of us, especially when it comes to Meltdowns like if you think of like a meltdown being an a, when somebody has having a meltdown, it’s scary. It feels out of control of the people around you feel powerless, whether it’s an adult meltdown or whether it’s a kid meltdown, like even if I’m in a group, if I’m in a store and some random stranger starts having a meltdown yelling, I would like, I want to talk to the store manager and believe me, I’m all in, you know, however many years ago that person was me.

1 (10m 26s):
Okay. So no judgement, if I’m talking to you and you’re that person, but now where I am is a very aware of that. And I’m very aware of like what’s going on around me and kind of the energy around me. So even when somebody is doing that in a store and I’m just a witness to it, it feels sort of scary to me. Like I’ll get a little bit of a pit in my stomach. And so it very much affects when, when that kind of anger is around, it affects all the people around you as well. Now, anger, I’ve read that anger is really a secondary emotion. What is rooted underneath anger is Fear okay.

1 (11m 8s):
So anytime your angry, you can say to yourself, what am I scared of? What am I scared of here? So maybe when you get angry, when your child, a M acts out has a meltdown, refuses to listen to you, you know, gets aggressive, gets physically aggressive. And you find that like, it gets you really angry and you stop and you say to yourself, but what am I scared of here? What am I scared of? Are you scared of your child being the one that’s in control of your household, your child, thinking that they can go out in the world and solve problems by acting like a lunatic by hurting other people, by being physically, are you worried that your child is going to be a aggressive, violent person?

1 (12m 0s):
You know, are you worried that your child, like, This like this? Isn’t, I’m supposed to be teaching this kid how to get along in the world and be as civilized human. And like this rate, like Liz is going to be a kid that goes down the wrong path. You know, if you get to extreme, you’re like, okay, when people go to jail, when they grow up to be angry, violent people, how am I going to be able to manage this kid? If they’re already this aggressive at the age of six, how am I going to manage this kid when they’re 14? And they’re all of a sudden bigger than me, right? So, so underneath your anger, it might be that you’re actually scared. You’re scared of the future. You’re scared of what this behavior is going to bring. And so, so I think it’s just important to look at where the fear is coming from.

1 (12m 50s):
Because what I can tell you is, is that any time we operate from a place of fear, right? We operate from a place of fear. The outcome is never going to be good, that it comes never going to be good. ’cause, you know, we want to be those calm, grounded grownups, but like every kid wants to have in your corner. You know, you, we want to be the soft place to land. When our kids are going through something in life that feels scary or they don’t know how to handle. Like we want to be the grownups. We want to help to take care of them. Right. And help them to feel safe from the world were not exactly those able to be those grownups.

1 (13m 33s):
Well, more in a place of fear, because when we’re in, in, in a place, if you were in the lower centers of our brain, like literally that’s the dumbest versions of ourselves were not in the thinking brain were not in that place in our brain where all of the executive functions are housed. We’re in the place of fight or flight ourselves. So we can run fast. We can fight hard, but we’re not able to truly guide them and, and be that grounded, soft place to land. When fear is running the show. So I think it’s important to just like, know when your fears are coming up. It’s, it’s really a sign that there’s, there’s some old hurts probably coming on the scene for you, that you haven’t resolved yet.

1 (14m 20s):
And it’s important to take a look at those. It’s important to take a look at those. And there’s a lots of different ways. You can take a look at those, but even just like starting by noticing when it comes up, when you start to get triggered, when your heart starts to race, you know, look If, if you have never thought about things like this, but you just to have a kid that smelting down and then you know that you’re yelling back and there’s a lot of power struggles. There is more on the scene. And I would say either, go and see a really good therapist, start reading some self-help books. At the very least, I’ve been loving this, this holistic psychologist on Instagram.

1 (15m 3s):
Her name is Nicole Lapera LA P E R a M. She has some amazing posts. So, so, you know, there’s so many resources and our world, that’s my point is sitting, yes, they’re happy can be really helpful and impactful. And if you’re like, okay, I don’t have the money for all of that. Or I know that’s not an option for me, or we’re in a pandemic right now. Like I can’t even go and I’m not going to go sit in the therapist off or whatever it is. Just know that it is not the only path to healing, but you’ve got to do something. You gotta do something, you know, blaming your kid for their behavior and then reacting to them constantly from a place of anger and fear is just never going to get you the outcome that you’re hoping to get.

1 (15m 55s):
You gotta, you gotta take a deep look at what’s really coming up for you real and ’em. And if you were, the kid were in your household, you know, back to that show that I talked about last week, you know, as the show unfolds, you get it. It’s a very interesting how they do it. They do it in a pretty nuanced way, but you sense there’s tension in the household, the show Normal people that you sense. There’s a tension in the household. You can tell it’s a family that doesn’t speak. You can tell the mom is very cold and shut down and you can tell there’s an older brother who’s really nasty to Mary and the main character.

1 (16m 38s):
And just seems like a creep. Like he shows that sign early on, where he’s dropping her off at school and somebody called him a friend, calls him on If in his car and says, Hey, can you give me a ride to work? I hate didn’t give me union to you. And I know you’ve already left and whatever. And, and, and her older, brother’s like, Oh no, no worries. Yeah, of course. And so he’s like, yeah, no big deal. And so he is super nice to is friend. And then he gets up the phone and he like parks away from her school. And he’s like, okay, get out. And she looks them and she was like, it’s pouring rain. I’m going to get soaking wet. And he’s like, get out. She was like, you are not going to pull it up.

1 (17m 19s):
He was like, get out. And so he just kicks her out of the car. So you get a sense then that there is some major nastiness onto the scene and, and she’s receiving some pretty crappy messages. And then her mom whose just like, so just a cold and shut down in aloof. Om, you can tell that she just hates her mom and her mom just seems like anything but loving. And, and as the show unfolds, she has one conversation with, with the boy who is kind of the main character and the show. And she says that her dad was her dad who it turns out, has her who passed away.

1 (18m 2s):
Her dad was mean and abusive to her mother in front of her. And, and the boyfriend says, did he ever hit you? And she says, no, he never hit me. And so it’s interesting because she was deeply affected just by witnessing the violence between her parents and being in a household with that kind of tension and anger. She didn’t get hit herself, but just being a child, not just, but being a child in a household where abuse was present, a deeply affected her. And it deeply affected the whole family in the whole household.

1 (18m 45s):
And then, and then as the show unfolds, you see just how disgusting the brother is, but the brother Obviously look, kids learn by what we model, not by what we say. So the brother was taught, what was modeled for him was abuse towards women. So the brother, you know, is, is, is very shitty to her and, and they don’t, they don’t harp on it in the show. They just touch upon it, but they touch upon it enough that you just get the sense that her isolation, the family’s disconnection, her loneliness, she lives in a place of fear in her own household.

1 (19m 33s):
And so she is just shut down to the world. She also has a deep sense of unworthiness and a, and, and as the show unfolds, you see how that comes out more and more how she just, you know, you know, we as humans, our brains seek the familiar and also we seek familiar patterns. And that’s why so often we recreate accidentally. We can recreate until we heal patterns from our life. We recreate them again and again and again. And, and so you see how, because she was treated unworthy and like less of a human in her family, and there was no sense of justice or connection.

1 (20m 22s):
You see how her character seeks that familiar pattern in relationships. Like she truly, her comfort zone becomes being treated poorly by men being treated like less than a human by men. And, and, and, and she, you know, especially when she had the chip on her shoulder, when she was younger and she was in high school, she was the outspoken feminist, right. She was the outspoken feminist. She had a chip on her shoulder. She’s going to let anyone talk to her if she was smarter than everyone and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That was her armor. She was as outspoken feminists, but you see the truth unfold as she gets older. And as she grows that she had this deep sense of unworthiness and loneliness.

1 (21m 4s):
And, and she really, you know, there was so much anger and fear on the scene for her. And I think that, look, these are hard topics to look at and to talk about it. And we might be like, shit, I just came on. I just wanted to hear how to stop my kid’s meltdown. But what I want y’all to understand is, is that when we look at family systems, when we look at generational patterns, when we look at why kids act on the outside in such explosive unlikeable, disdainful ways, like when they’re little, they’re taking it all in.

1 (21m 46s):
So if there is a lot of anger on the scene, if there is a lot of fear on a scene, if there has been a lot of punishment and shame and old school tactics to try and get them to do better when they were just, you know, a highly sensitive, nervous system kid who was acting out when they were three, because, you know, the world was overwhelming and they didn’t have a grownup, no, how to remain calm and help them build the skills that they needed to have to do well in life. You know, if there’s been patterned where they were shamed and admonished and yelled at and scared when they were actually begging for help as little ones, right?

1 (22m 28s):
Like there’s going to be more to really get honest and uncover here, if you truly are committed to, to, to creating a happier household. You know, if, if, if creating a happy household, especially with strong-willed Kids was easy every week. I mean, my job we’ll be so easy. It’ll be awesome, but it’s loaded. It’s complicated. It’s deeper. And as humans, we are complicated, right? Like I always say a few being human is a messy business. We are complicated. We are layered. It does take a lot of work to get here. What I can tell you is that once you start to truly peel back these layers, you’ll see, you know, I say my, my strong-willed kid, it was my biggest blessing.

1 (23m 19s):
It’s my biggest gift because he propelled me to be on this path. He wasn’t having it. He was not going to just, I mean, if I were to have my other two kids first, they would have been like, okay, yell at me. If you, if I mess up, you know, throw a little shame there that’s okay. Punish me, use it, whatever old school tactics. And we are still going to pretty much figure it out because we’re just easier temperaments, but my strong-willed one was not having any of that. None of it. So, so he propelled me to have to do this work and get on this journey.

1 (23m 59s):
And without if I hadn’t had to him, I wouldn’t have ever done this. And I would have still been a person who was living in shame and blame and numbing and all of these other ways that I lived, which, where my coping mechanisms and I needed at the time, but it feels so much better to, to be doing this work. And it’s a process, you know, by us, by all means I’m far from healed. There’s still plenty of things that come up. And that’s just part of the journey. Like, that’s just, like I said, it’s just part of the whole human messy, beautiful experience. So I know this is a heavy topic this month, but I just, you know, I, if I’m going to talk about Meltdowns, I gotta have a truly honest conversation because I promise you, if you have a kid prone to chronic Meltdowns, there was a lot of fear on the scene.

1 (24m 55s):
They are living in a state of fight or flight way more often than is healthy for any human body. You are most likely if your feeling your buttons being pushed in your living in a place of fight or flight, your they’re in a way that’s, you know, not very healthy. And, and so we gotta have an honest conversation about this. So thanks for listening this week. I hope it was helpful, please. I know this is a heavy, heavy topic, and if I can support you in any way or direct you to more resources to help you work through some of your old hurts or your old trauma or things that you realize you can’t remember, but probably need to, and you need my support in terms of connecting you with the right professional, please feel free to reach out to me at info at Randi Rubenstein dot com.

1 (25m 54s):
Okay. You guys have a great,

0 (25m 56s):
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by Randi Rubenstein