It is something I find myself saying to my daughter at least three times a week. I like to say that my three year old’s personality is like fire in a can, or sunshine with a little bit of hurricane mixed in. She is sweet and funny but can turn on a dime and knock you over faster than a tornado.
Her temper tantrums have become legendary in our family. So we have developed and adpoted the cool down spot in our home.
Now, I know you are thinking “Okay just like time out. Riiiiight!” But in reality it is nothing at all like time out. Not even close.
This is a technique which was introduced to us by our ABA therapist or Applied Behavioral Analysis therapist. She was able to see that even as an infant our youngest had not just a temper but a personality which would due well with taking time for herself to calm down.
She would not be able to be calmed by others but rather would have to do it herself. Now not every child can self soothe this way, especially when they are very small. Most need a loving hand and will benefit much later from the cool down spot, say around the age of 3 and older but our little one seemed to benefit from it much earlier on.
What is the cool down spot?
It has taken a couple of forms over the years in our home and we actually now have two different kinds. We have the cool down spot and the quiet place.
The cool down spot is for when our girl is over whelmed by her own emotions. She might be getting reprimanded for poor behavior, not getting what she wants, or thing simply might not be going her way for whatever reason.
We can tell when she is getting overwhelmed. There are signs, not only by her voice getting raised but also she tends to go up on her tip toes. She starts to not be able to speak clearly or put her words together. She becomes overly whiny, and very, very aggressive for little reason.
Before she could walk she would pull her hair, slap the ground, and toss things around the room. Though she has moved past those things…mostly…they still occasionally come out in her temper tantrums.
When these outbursts happen these are the steps I take:
- Get down on her level – whether that is on the floor completely or kneeling
- Speak in a clear and solid voice
- Ask her if she needs to go to the cool down spot
- If she says “yes” – she does more than you’d expect, take her there and let her sit.
- If she screams “NO!” – tell her that she needs to go to the cool down spot and physically but gentially pick her up (she will kick and scream) and take her there
- Put her gently down on the cool down spot
- DO NOT set a timer – this is not a time out!
- When I feel she starts to calm I simply ask if she is ready to come out of her cool down.
- When she is ready I make sure if she wants hugs and kisses to give them, if she wants space I give that too.
Here is a print out of The Steps for the Cool Down Spot. This will help you to remember during this high stress moment.
There are a couple of tips to keep in mind.
When you are deciding on where to put your cool down spot, make sure it is away from any loud noises or distractions.
You want the cool down spot to be comfortable and literally cool, temperature wise. When a child is having a temper tantrum they often sweat and heat up. Cooling down their body temp will often help in cooling down their anger also. The quiet will also help with calming.
Keep it away from their typical time out spot as well. You do not want them to get confused with the two. We do not have a super large house so the way we did this was we placed a really soft rug in the cool down spot and put it near her bedroom away from the living room.
Asking them about going to the cool down spot is actually an important step. This way they start to learn what it feels like when they need the cool down spot. They learn what emotions can be helped with sitting alone and breathing. Our daughter will now head to the spot on her own when she feels herself becoming overwhelmed.
The other best tip…
This is something Kay, our therapist had to teach me so it is slightly tough to describe. To sum it up, you will know when they are done in the cool down spot. You have to learn to listen to your child. When I say that I do not mean the words coming out of their mouth. They could still be crying, still be saying mean things to you but their tone changes. Their cry changes that is how you know when they are done.
They are not meant to stay in this spot until exhaustion. It is not meant as a punishment or torture. It is meant as a safe space for them to express their anger and frustration at the feelings they do not yet know how to deal with.
In the end, the cool down spot has saved our family so many screaming matches and knock down drag out fights. It has saved me some sanity and I am sure has saved our girl some very hurt feelings. It works really well for us. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.
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