Picking up the Cues: BEFORE the Meltdown

Keeping the Keeping the

Trust your gut!

Two thirds of our “sensing cells” are in our gut – that’s why when your child wakes in the morning and you know before he’s even gotten out of bed that it’s a going to be a lousy day you get that “kick in the gut” sensation.  You might hope you are wrong or even consider ignoring that punch hoping if you do it will slip away, but your gut picks up the “red zone” giving you warning.   “Heads up, be on alert.”  The challenge is to stop, listen and respond while things are still in the “rumble stage,” BEFORE the full fledged meltdown. Just think about it.  If you intervene when the voices first begin to get louder, rather than waiting until your children have hit one another you catch it while they can still “hear you” and work with you.  It’s so much easier! 

There are 3 categories of "big cues" you’ll commonly see when intensity is going up. 

Striking out Shutting down Gathering in
Blood goes to the muscles Can’t stand stimuli – noise, lights, smells Don’t want to be  alone
Meltdowns Refusing to walk, eat etc. Experience anxiety
Hitting /throwing/yelling  Hot and itchy Want to sleep/stay with you
Arguing Not trying Clinging
Wild Sullen  
Refusing to do work Not trying  


The reality is that by the time you see these “big cues” your child is already past the rumble and either in or very close to an over the top meltdown. That’s why it’s critical to catch the “rumbles” the “little cues” when your child is just beginning to struggle to “regulate his emotions” and calm himself.


Before the “big” cues there are little cues. 

BEFORE Striking out you’ll see... BEFORE Shutting down… BEFORE Gathering in…
Irritable/voice tone changes

Fingers/objects in the mouth

Wanting to be held
Can’t make decisions Go off to a quiet spot Seeking contact
Wired /jittery Not listening Going for lovies
Silly Glazed look  
Picking on others Can’t eat or sleep  
Who cares?

Roll on the floor

Bit of resistance

Nothing is quite right


So stop and think. 

  • What do you hear, see or sense that first tells you - things have just changed? 
  • Your child’s “internal volcano” is beginning to rumble?
  • If you respond when your child first gets silly or starts to get wild it is so much easier to bring her back to the green zone of calm energy where she can work with you.
  • This is when the effective emotion coach steps in – not waiting until you are in the midst of a foot-stomping power struggle. 

And then be honest. 

  • What keeps you from being fully present and picking up and responding to the little cues? 
  • Are you texting?  Talking on your phone? Seeing what your friends are up to on Facebook?  Are you reading this blog!  No one is a perfect parent.  No one is going to be totally focused 24/7. 
  • So take note of the “danger times” like first thing in the morning, before moving from one place to another, at the end of the day when you are picking up the kids or before beginning bedtime. 
  • Stop and ask yourself – would you bet Lynn and me $100.00 that your child is going to get through the next 30 minutes without losing it? 
  • If you’re not willing to bet us then trust your gut and take time to give that hug, listen, calm or maybe even decide to just go home.  Your response truly will change your child’s if you move in to connect when your child is merely at the “little cue” stage. 

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