Learning how to de-escalate

by | Jan 31, 2020

When your child starts escalating, try and stay calm. I know it’s not always easy, I certainly don’t always manage it, but it is very effective at reducing meltdowns. 

Learning how to de-escalate situations calmly and quickly can be one of the hardest parts of NVR to master.  It isn’t easy and there’s no set way to do it.  Every child is different.  Every adult is different.  Different things will trigger different reactions in each of us, and it is those reactions that we must master as parents and then help our children to master.  

What is de-escalation?  

De-escalation is the middle ground, where, as the parent you remain calm and proactively manage the situation, rather than reacting.  By managing your own emotions and staying calm, not only are you showing your child you can manage the situation, but you are giving yourself space and time to respond appropriately.  This often means not responding in the moment, but later on when all is calm and you can help your child understand what was happening for them in the moment.  

Learning the triggers

Part of de-escalating is knowing your own triggers and your child’s, so that you can manage them before they escalate.  You manage your triggers first, then your child’s. Managing escalations gets easier with practice and as you work on your own inner beliefs.  Initially, after an escalation you will realise that you became caught up in it.  Then you start to realise during the escalation you are getting caught up in it and can catch yourself.  Then after a period you can see the escalations coming and are able to act before they start.  

How do you de-escalate?   

Understanding de-escalation is one thing, but what do you do when meltdowns happen? Your focus is on ensuring everyone is safe, and then on your own self-regulation, that is it.  It sounds easy and simple to say, but in the moment can be incredibly hard.  

How you de-escalate will depend on you, your child and the situation. Here are some ideas:  

  • Use distraction – this could be doing something silly like dancing, turning on the radio and singing or asking them to do something  – once I put my son’s coat on my head and pretended to be batman in a shop. Worked brilliantly! 
  • Use sensory input to help them regulate – offer them a hug, get them moving, give them a drink in a sports bottle  
  • Tell them you are going to stop talking but will stay with them   
  • Actively listen to what they are saying and show them you have heard it  

Take these ideas and try them.  Play around with using them and find what works for you.  What works for one parent may not work for the other parent.  That’s normal, so don’t worry if that happens to you.  Find strategies that work for you. Many of the things we use with our children, can help us as well so it’s a double bonus as everyone calms down. 

What to do afterwards  

When the situation has calmed down, and you are ready, you come back to it and address the behaviour. Having a conversation, when everyone is calm, can be a very effective way of reducing escalations.  The aim is to re-connect and help them understand what was happening for them in the moment, and the impacts of their behaviour.  To help them understand their own emotions and how they can manage them differently in the future.  


If you want to learn more about de-escalation, the Connective Parenting Hub might be useful for you. Connective Parenting Hub members have access to recorded teaches/discussions, as well as newly added written resources and loads more https://connectivefamily.com/connectiveparentinghub/  

Also, please feel free to join my online supportive and friendly community https://www.facebook.com/groups/connectiveparentingusingNVR/