You may be humming along in your home or classroom thinking all is fine when —BOOM! Seemingly out of nowhere one child has a meltdown. Forward momentum is completely stopped —perhaps for all, certainly for one.

Sobbing. Falling to the floor. Running away. Lashing out. Drama. Drama. Drama. It’s easy for the grown-up involved to heave a huge discouraged sigh. “Here we go again!”  If you are not prone to meltdowns, you may not understand why some children (or grown-ups) tend to melt down when faced with an obstacle or pressure.

How do I know about meltdowns? If melting down were an Olympic sport, there were times in my life when I would have been a gold-medalist. While many children respond dramatically to frustrations for seasons of time (think terrible twos), for other children meltdowns come more frequently for more years and are far more intense. The full scope of causes and cures would take more than one blog post to address, but when I look back now to the meltdown queen I used to be this is what I would have liked to tell my parents and teachers.

Dear Parent or Teacher,

I’m not trying to ruin your day. If I knew how to respond in a different way—I would. But I don’t even think I have a choice in how I respond. When frustration takes over my brain I just cry or freak out automatically. I don’t see any other way to respond to the way I feel. 

Note that word FEEL—that’s a hint to what’s going on here. I’m letting how I feel dominate me. I am not thinking or proactively doing things, I’m reacting to what I consider a life-ending threat. What looks to you like a meal you want me to eat or a math page you want me to do looks to me like an insurmountable obstacle. And tomorrow you plan to hand me another one. 

Not only do I FEEL like I can’t do what you want. I FEEL like this marks the end. Not only do I think I’m a failure—I think I’ll never be different than I am, so I will always fail. This feels hopeless and I feel completely crushed. 

And the crazy part? Somewhere deep inside I feel like I kind of DO understand how to do what you want but I can’t get it out the way others do. This frustration takes over. I don’t know how to deal with my feelings and down I melt. 

I need to learn that my feelings can’t rule my actions. Right at the moment I’m melting down—such a lesson will probably not get through my sobbing. But when I can understand, in gentle ways at other times, please teach me that Jesus can set me free not only of my sin, but also set me free from the prison of life based on feelings. On my own I’m powerless to rule over my feelings, but Jesus can teach me that. 

But there’s more going on here than just a lesson I need to learn. If a 3-year-old melts down at an obstacle or delay, adults tend to say things like, “Someone’s missed their nap time.” The behavior may be out of line, but we also take into consideration the necessity of things like regular sleep and regular meals. 

Guess what? The toddler-behavior you are seeing out of me likely has some of it’s roots in the same needs. Some kids may adjust well to a life that changes all the time, but I desperately need food at regular intervals and solid nutrition. I may have blood sugar issues or dairy/gluten/sugar sensitivities that are making everything 100X worse for me. 

If I had cancer, you would find some treatments—right? Well, I have a brain that gets inflamed, blood sugar that drops, all sorts of things going on physically that you can’t see but that are knocking out my brain’s ability to process. I may revolt when you try to take me off sweets or put me to bed earlier—but I still need your help to make right choices. I can’t cope with so many decisions. Teach me how to enjoy what I can enjoy apart from the foods and behaviors that are destroying my ability to process.  Please help me get proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise.

One more thing to consider, you know how you say life get’s insanely busy? Well, that may be a way you exaggerate, but for me—when life is full of lots and lots of choices and stimuli day after day—it pushes me past the end of my processing ability.  Please give me a routine and help me create or restore external order into my day and into my space. 

I’m not saying you will always have to alter you life to accommodate me. Jesus can grow me in every area where I need to grow. I can learn the skills and develop the confidence to move beyond meltdowns. But right now I need some help. I’m quite literally crying out for it. 


P.S. Not every child melts down for the reasons I did, but I stand as living proof that God is fully capable of transforming a meltdown queen.

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