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124: Meltdowns and Safety

By July 21, 2020November 8th, 2023Mastermind Parenting Podcast
124: Meltdowns and Safety

In this episode, I breakdown the concept of emotional safety; what it really looks like to have it, create it and demand it.

My own little “armchair expert” theory has led me to believe that many of us were not raised in environments where it was safe to feel all the intense feelings.

Humans crave to feel unconditionally loved and celebrated for the real person we were born to be. I see this time and time again when I really get to know people.

I think we are born as perfect little humans and then the big humans accidentally send the littles the message that it’s not safe to be the honest, real, raw, messy, beautiful person you were intended to become.

Those messages are internalized and there are a variety of ways people deal with the pain that comes from not feeling fully expressed. Some people learn coping skills that allow them to live life on the surface and pretend the pain doesn’t exist.

This can seem like it’s working for the most part AND spoiler alert, there is an expiration date on that coping pattern. When life throws a curveball like it always does, the people who seem most “together” are often the first to fall apart.

Then there are others who can’t pretend they feel good when they don’t.  These are the people where life involves a pretty good deal of suffering.

They have no problem acting out no matter who’s around. These are the sensitive people. The highly intuitive ones. These. Are. Our. Strong. Willed. Kids. They are begging for the grown ups to create emotional safety for them so they can feel seen, understood and safe to develop better skills to deal with the overwhelming big feelings in their bodies.

The frequent meltdowns over seemingly trivial things are always a sign that they are in emotional pain. Meltdowns will never be squashed until emotional safety is created.

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 flood

1 (15s):
And listening to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast with Randi Rubenstein episode one 24. Well, hi guys, I’m going to continue this week with our conversation about Meltdowns and digging in to the roots of why the meltdown exists. What’s really going on underneath and behind the scenes with the meltdown. And, and so this week I want to talk about a topic, which is really sounds kind of basic, but it’s, you know, it’s just about it’s as humans, we all want to feel safe in the world.

1 (56s):
And as parents, we know, we know our job is to keep our kids safe. Right? And I think when we think about safety, I mean, it was the reason why lots of us have alarms on our house. I mean, many, many of us wouldn’t even think of going to sleep if you live in a major city without setting your alarm, right? So that’s the physical safety. So physical safety is pretty tangible. And I think we all know what that is. And I think we understand that that’s our job as parents is we’re in a kid. You know, if our kid runs out into the street and I tell parents all the time and I’m like, look, I want kids to grow up without any yelling on the scene.

1 (1m 39s):
And when it’s a danger, dangerous situation, it’s emergency an emergency. You, your kid runs your three-year-old two year old, runs out into the street. You freaking scream at the top of your lungs and jar them into a free state. And then you go grab them in, scoop them up. I just wait until its an emergent situation. And when you’re not yelling all the time, they’d take it very seriously. Right? So, so we understand when physical safety is at risk, we pull out all the stops to make sure our kids are physically safe.

1 (2m 23s):
Well, let’s talk about this episode is really about emotional safety and what that means, what that looks like, how we create it and how many of us don’t have it. I have never had it. I don’t know how to give it and why it really is what we all crave as humans. It’s really the key to living a life that feels healthy and whole and meaningful and sustaining. And all the things is when you find a life that emotionally safe to be a a hundred percent yourself and that you’re surrounding yourself with people and situations where that you, that you are you being your own unique human four-leaf Clover is scene and allowed and celebrated and accepted.

1 (3m 25s):
Those are the key. That’s how you get the keys to the happiness kingdom. And so what I have found is that most people don’t have that and don’t know how to create it for themselves. And look, when people work with me on a deeper level, I take you through a process where you understand, you have to create that emotional safety for yourself first and foremost. And there’s a way that we do it. And, and it involves really kind of like digging up all of the puzzle pieces of your life. And I’m like the impactful ones and helping you to sort of redefine those puzzle pieces and rewrite the narrative of your life and, and feel like you’re getting more In in the driver’s seat.

1 (4m 11s):
You know, I think many of us when like when bad stuff has happened, it’s easy to either what I talked about in last week’s episode, it’s easy to either pretend they don’t exist in and do this spaceship in your brain to association thing or blame everyone else and talk about it a lot and then find yourself living in that place of the victim story, which neither one of them feel safe, emotionally write like neither one of them are going to help you to get those keys to the happiness kingdom. So I want to teach you guys about emotional safety and what that looks like and understanding that in order to create it for our kids, we have to consider how we’re going to create it for ourselves.

1 (5m 4s):
And don’t worry, we’re going to next week, we’re going to get to how to truly create for yourself and the way to create that emotional safety. It has a lot to do with what I call pack leadership and boundary setting. And what I have found is that most of us don’t come to this naturally. It is a skill set that we can learn and we can practice and we can get better at. And once we do that, eventually we do create emotional safety in our life. But just to break it down into really defining what does emotional safety look like? How do we do it for our kids?

1 (5m 44s):
And just to kind of dig deeper into it. I want to talk about what it is, what it really is. So every human deserves to feel safe, right? Emotionally and physically. And since we are designed to be scanning are environments at all times for danger because we have one job really, and that’s to stay alive. Safety is big. Safety is primal. And when you don’t feel emotionally safe, it’s almost like where’s your foundation. OK. So what is emotional safety, emotional safety, as I define it, this is my definition is that it feels safe to be you to be just a a hundred percent You that means you don’t have to put on airs or try and impress anyone or where a certain something to make sure that people know that you’re quality person or drive a certain something or speak Oh, so eloquently so that they know that they know that you’re not just beauty, but your brain’s to, or it’s okay to not say things.

1 (7m 6s):
It’s okay to just be you. Maybe you is a slightly introverted. You who’s pretended to enjoy socializing and being extroverted, but really hate it. And you don’t want to, you know, you it’s exhausting and you only want to do that. And you want people who love you because you’re the most amazing listener and you don’t always have to contribute to the conversation. And it doesn’t mean your boring or lame or any of it. Maybe the You is a You that likes to get really excited about Harry Potter.

1 (7m 51s):
I don’t know. I’m thinking about my daughter, you know, it’s like it, she, you know, so when she would get so excited about movies that I’m like, Oh, this is the most boring movie I’ve ever heard of in my life. And, or, or just a topic that I wasn’t at all interested in. And she, she knew she was emotionally safe to be a a hundred percent herself. And she was like, that’s You this is me. And there is nothing more exciting. Then this movie coming out of this book coming out, it can not wait to read it. So I’m so psyched about it. And I’m like, I love that you are so psyched about it, you know?

1 (8m 31s):
And so, and it safe to be me in that I can say, Oh, and she can say, yay. And we can say, we can laugh at each other for having differences. Like we don’t have to be the exact same. It is safe to be a, a a hundred percent, you know, it is safe to be imperfect. It is safe to make mistakes. It is safe to be a, at things. It

2 (8m 56s):
Is safe to say, I don’t know it is safe when somebody says, why don’t you do it that way to say I got, it was a good idea. And it was not. And yeah, I messed up and its safe and, and, and that other person isn’t going to shame, you know, creating an emotional safety is to create that environment. And then to be the, the other person that says, Oh wow, it’s so huge. I like, you tried, you made that mistake being a Humans messy business.

2 (9m 39s):
And yeah, I screw up too. I make mistakes too. I guess that’s how we learn. Right? Where we all just get to be imperfect humans together. Instead of saying to your kids, when they make a mistake, why did you do that instead saying, huh? So that was an interesting choice. I’ve made interesting choices. Believe it or not myself too. Over the years. Tell me about this one. I want to know more. I’ll tell you more about mine. You go first, right? A dialog where its like it is safe to be mastered, to be a mess up, to get, have mess ups.

2 (10m 22s):
It’s okay. We’re all doing this together. That’s creating emotional. Safety it’s safe to cry. How many of us received the message? Especially the male Humans but female Humans too. I receive this message. It was not safe to cry. I was made fun of if I cried, how often do our kids cry about something In or are men cry about something? Or we cry about something and another person says don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. That’s not emotional safety. What if emotional safety is? Yes, cry.

2 (11m 2s):
Crying is a hot track to the truth. Crying means something touched you deeply and powerfully. It causes some kind of emotion to bubble up in you. So you were so scared of failing big emotions. Cause none of us were taught out a freaking breathe and that negative emotions are 50% a part of life. We were taught that we were supposed to put a smile on our face and pretend to be happy all the time or blame someone else for our unhappiness. And so that emotional safety doesn’t exist for many of us. What if we all made a pact to see whenever we cried or someone else around us cry?

2 (11m 42s):
Oh, truth is here. This is a real conversation. Oh this person’s allowing me to see the real them. Something touched them, deeply impactfully, some old piece of them that needs some tenderness is Hear asking me to embrace it. Do I dismiss that? Do I ignore it? Or do I acknowledge it? When our kids show up with those tears instead of trying to shut it down or shush them or make it stop? What if we just embraced it with a hug held space, got quiet, allow the tears to happen.

2 (12m 27s):
Didn’t tell our kids what they should say or feel or Do and just showed up for them. That’s creating emotional Safety right? Like it’s like, this is not rocket science. It really isn’t. And yet you may be sitting here going, Ooh, how do I do that? Right? Like, cause we weren’t taught it. We, most of us have not had environments where there was emotional safety. Okay. What if it was safe to feel proud of yourself? What if you didn’t have to constantly look outward for other people to be proud of you? What have you got too?

2 (13m 6s):
Just quietly. I feel proud of yourself or celebrate yourself. Notice all of the moments where your doing things that you feel really proud of yourself. Four. What have you got to seek internal validation IX instead of external validation, like we’re taught, we’re taught to do on our culture. What have you focused on that? What if, when your kids came to you with some big accomplishment, you looked at them and thought how proud they must feel to have just done that or completed that or accomplished that. What must that feel like to them?

2 (13m 49s):
And what have you just turn it all back on them and said, wow, you did that. Do you feel proud? How does that make you feel in your body? That’s got to feel good. It’s a pretty big deal. What have you just put words to celebrating something that they get to feel proud of and you didn’t make it about your judgment of them. Then looking to you to seek validation and you instead guided it and encouraged them to seek validation within themselves. That’s creating emotional safety. What if it was safe to fail?

2 (14m 32s):
Oops. Yep. That didn’t work out. What if we didn’t have to make every little, teeny tiny thing that we tried and didn’t succeed at mean some huge failure F stamped on our forehead. What we were, what if we said to our kids, every time they brought a great home, that was less than what they had hoped for of what we had hoped four. What if we said, OK, so something to unpack here are some to figure out what this is just information for us.

2 (15m 12s):
Obviously there was something that didn’t make sense to your brain. We can either get curious about that and uncover what’s underneath that. Or we can sit and feel terrible about it and feel ashamed about it. How’s that going to be helpful? How’s that going to serve you? I’m here to say none of us are going to get everything a hundred percent perfect all the time. And having that expectation, thinking that you were the person that’s going to be so perfect and never do anything in perfectly and never have a grade less than what you were hoping for.

2 (15m 52s):
Right? Like I just never met that person and anyone I’ve ever met, whose trying to be that person, they usually end up pretty darn unhappy. I don’t want that for you. So what if we created a emotional safety where we let our kids know that there really is no failing. Having the courage to try is a big deal. It’s always a win. It’s always a win. What if we created a emotional safety and that is safe to feel big emotions, half of life involves things, not always going in your way. Problem’s to be figured out and solved.

2 (16m 34s):
And when we get thrown those curve balls hard when life doesn’t pan out the way we had hoped, it is hard. When people don’t do the things that we think they should do or what we wanted them to do it, it’s hard. It’s hard to be in relationship with other people. It’s a hard to do life and it’s going to cause you to feel big things in your allowed to feel it all. And I’m here for you. I’m your soft place to land. When those big emotions, when those big feelings come your way, you come to me, right? You go within. That’s why we take the deep breath. Sometimes we might need to just take a walk.

2 (17m 15s):
Sometimes you don’t want to talk about it. Sometimes you do want to talk about it. We can do hard things. We’ve got this and I’m always here for you. That’s emotional safety. What if it was safe to feel hurt, right? And to have your feelings hurt. What if it was safe to say, yeah, I didn’t get invited to such and such. Or I saw this thing on Instagram are the, all my friends got invited to go on. This girls’ were intrigued and I didn’t and, and my feelings feel hurt.

2 (17m 56s):
What do they feel safe to admit that in my head hurt my feelings a little bit. And what if you had people in your life that didn’t dismiss that or tell you, you shouldn’t have your feelings hurt or call you to sensitive? What if they just allowed you to feel all of that and showed up saying me too. I felt like that too. It’s hard. Sucks. It’s not fun. I totally get it. I’m just so glad you told me that’s emotional safety. What if it was safe to explain your behavior and your point of view, what have you made a mistake?

2 (18m 42s):
Your kids may not make them make a mistake and it was safe for them to explain.

1 (18m 50s):
Like, one of my mom’s recently just was talking about her little boy, a four year old little boy throwing daddy, unwrapped, a granola bar for him as a snack time.

2 (18m 59s):
Any end of the dad

1 (19m 1s):
Unwraps the granola bar and the four-year-old just like chunks it at them. The dad just like

2 (19m 7s):
Leave that, you

1 (19m 8s):
Know, kind of a storm stomps out of the room in a Huff.

2 (19m 13s):
And the mom took the time to say, Hey, what, what was going on there? And the little boy sensed some safety and said, well, I didn’t want daddy to unwrap the whole thing because my fingers get sticky. OK. And this was a little boy

1 (19m 38s):
They who had been, who has been having out of control behavior and Meltdowns and aggressive behavior and, and his, it has sensory stuff going on and is, has some serious lagging skills in his, his coping mechanism has been explosive Meltdowns or saying I don’t care and just totally shutting down. And the parents spanking and doing all of these things before they came to me to try and resolve the behavior and nothing which worked because they all involved fear tactics. And that just exacerbated the situation. And then cause the little boy to go into shutdown mode and say, Oh, I don’t care.

1 (20m 20s):
You can take away or whatever you want. You can do whatever you wanted to meet. I don’t care. And just totally shut down like the like Maryann the Head character on that, that show that I’ve been talking about this month, normal people she’s shut down. Obviously her spirit had been broken so many times and there have been so much fear on the scene. You see her just totally shut down, shut out the world. Act like she doesn’t care, have a chip on her shoulder towards other kids, other people, because it was never emotionally

2 (20m 48s):
Safe for her at home. And so this little boy who had done that, and now this family is learning some new methods. And so the dad, instead of staying in the room and continuing to yell at him or spank him or do whatever the dad left the room, thank goodness in a Huff and the mom who is embracing these new tools, took a deep breath and said what was going on in there? And, and in creating an emotional safety for her little boy to explain, he didn’t want his fingers to be sticky. And obviously he’s lacking those skills to say, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, daddy, I didn’t want it on rapped.

2 (21m 33s):
It makes my finger sticky. Like he didn’t have the ability. He didn’t have the verbal skills. And he hadn’t had adults who had taken the time to teach them those verbal skills before now. But now they’re creating emotional Safety. So what if it was safe to have your own opinion? What if it was safe to not have an opinion? What if it was safe to just be quiet and not to make it mean that you were boring or not fun or didn’t have anything to add, but just sometimes you’re a quiet person.

2 (22m 13s):
What if it was safe to feel heard? What if it was safe where you knew your voice mattered in it and you were allowed to be heard. So, you know, when people don’t feel emotionally safe, they develop coping mechanisms. And a lot of times that might be armor. They might behave a certain way because when it’s not safe there quite often in fight or flight and they are just looking at ways to keep themselves protected, guarded.

2 (22m 58s):
One way of keeping yourself emotionally safe, has to do what I refer to the last couple of episodes as the spaceship in your brain, that the association, if you checked out, if you looked like you’re there in your body is there, but your brain has gone somewhere else. Just read this book. The sun does shine. I think that’s what it’s called about a man who sat on death row for 30 years and then ultimately was acquitted. It’s a really good book. And he did that. He basically taught himself dissociation. The way he got through all of that isolation was you created a whole magical world, a magical life in his brain and he didn’t

1 (23m 46s):
Let himself go crazy. He was married to Halle Berry in his brain. He was married to this one to that one. You know, he, he created a whole dream life. And what he, he really learned was that he could control his mind and, and that saved his life. I really think it saved his life. So when we don’t feel emotionally safe, we create coping mechanisms because we’re designed not to be bathed in cortisol, you know, not to have these stress hormones just constantly. And when you don’t feel safe, you live in fear and you live in isolation and loneliness. So that emotional safety is why you ultimately, you know, when you don’t have it, you do develop these coping mechanisms because ’cause, you have to for survival.

1 (24m 40s):
And sometimes when you don’t feel emotionally safe, that’s why, you know, a lot, I mean, I think all of the over behaviors, whatever it is over drinking over smoking, and I’m not talking about is alcoholism a disease or not as a disease and all those things. But I think any sort of habitual pattern that is not serving you right now, it’s not improving your life. It may be as something that feels good in the moment, but then ultimately causes more negative feelings to come afterwards, like emotional eating, or just over spending over gambling, over drinking, over smoking, any of it, you know, anything that causes temporary relief, but ultimately long-term suffering.

1 (25m 32s):
That’s, that’s a coping mechanism, right? And so on. And so when you need those coping mechanisms, its because there’s not that you don’t have a sense of emotional safety. And so you’re looking for quick fixes to feel safe, to feel better since we are humans that are designed to survive were always looking for ways to feel physically and emotionally safe. You know, in that show, I think it’s interesting that normal people, a series that I keep referring to, she didn’t feel emotionally safe and her home, she wasn’t protected by her mother.

1 (26m 16s):
Her mother was shut down in cold. And I think it’s easy to just sort of stop there in the story of abusive father, who she witnessed hitting her mom, abusive brother, shaming, abusive brother towards her who obviously had that abuse modeled for him. And then he’s carrying, you know, he’s doing his part and passing down on the generational pattern of, of, of that abuse. And I think it’s easy to stop at there rather than kind of get underneath the roots of those patterns for each character. And we don’t know what went on for her father. Chances are, that’s what her father saw model.

1 (26m 57s):
That’s what her father experienced as a kid. And, and so the abuse continued because that was just all that he knew. And so there, he was operating from the place of anger and fear and rage and Meltdowns and aggression and explosiveness, right? And, and then the brother now was passing it on to and I think it’s easy to also go to the mom and be like, Oh, she was so cold and shut down. And she wasn’t connected to her daughter and she didn’t stand up for her daughter and she didn’t make her daughter feel loved and supported in a pre all of the things that obviously the mother struggled with worthiness issues, two, she has, she was in a marriage where she got into a marriage and she had a man abusing her and obviously thought she wasn’t worthy of more.

1 (27m 46s):
So it’s real hard when you are living in a place of fight or flight to keep those people in your care, emotionally safe. If you yourself haven’t felt worthy of emotional safety or haven’t known how to create that for yourself or maybe have never had it. So see this stuff just do it. It’s, it’s prevalent in our culture, in, in our families. And I want you to understand that this Meltdowns behavior is a very prevalent in our children, especially in a strong-willed children are a little messengers here to say, Hey, you think I’m a problem.

1 (28m 32s):
This is actually something that a Glennon Doyle said recently. I heard her say, she says, you think of a problem. These are these super sensitive kids’ you think I’m a problem, but I’m actually a prophet. I’m here to teach you people stuff. And so these kids with these meltdown behaviors, it’s easy to focus on the blame and to fixate on their out of control behaviors. And I think it’s important to look at all of the grownups, look at all of the grownups who are displaying Meltdowns behaviors too. They may look different, but they’re scary. And they make us feel powerless. They feel out of control and no one feels grounded when that’s on the scene.

1 (29m 13s):
And that’s what I really believe when we are determined to create an emotional safety in our families and our lives. We know we deserve that and our children deserve it. I think that’s how we make the world a better place. Okay guys, until next week. Goodbye.

0 (29m 34s):
Are you ready to start having PRODUCTIVE conversations? Have you been listening to the podcast for a while and you hear me go through my three step PRODUCTIVE or process to solve any problem and you’re thinking, how does she do that? Guess what? I made a really cool resource for you guys. I call it the problem solving one sheet. Okay. It’s one sheet front and back. So, you know, take it with a grain of salt, but it will walk you through how to have productive conversations and your practice. And before you know it, you will be having productive conversations all day everyday. It really is the solution to solve any problem. So you can download it at Mastermind Parenting dot com forward slash problem solving all one word that’s Mastermind Parenting dot com for slash problem solving all one word.

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