I had a moment of revelation today that other parents of young children might find helpful.
Imagine that your adorable child, seemingly out of nowhere, walks up to you and hands you poop. (I'm offering this example metaphorically, but I'm certain it has happened to actual parents, because of course). Setting aside possible emotional reactions for the moment, what, physically, before all else, is the first thing you do?
...From here I'm addressing folks for whom the answer is "put down the poop," because I'm not sure what to do with other possible answers at the moment. Shhh, don't mess with my metaphor.
Young children routinely have moments where emotions run high, and they are overwhelmed by Big Feelings. There are a bazillion sources out there that can put this into academic perspective or come at it from a nurturing, calming angle. I'm here to talk about it in terms of poop.
When these adorable young darlings feel emotionally horrible, it is not uncommon for them to do something to make YOU feel emotionally horrible. They are holding poop and they don't know what to do about it, so they hand you some poop to see what you do about it. What made them feel horrible? Why did they pick up the poop? Did someone hand it to them? Did they go looking for something they wanted and find poop instead? Tangential questions.
Understandably, you might be upset. But consider, in that moment, what do you want to teach your child how to do? Do you want them to pass around the poop? Throw it? Smear it on themselves? NO! YOU WANT THEM TO PUT DOWN THE POOP. So that's what you have to show them. It is HARD! It takes a LOT of practice to not be mad or upset when somebody, anybody, for no apparent reason, HANDS YOU SOME POOP. But the thing is, it's not about getting poop on you; these kiddos are just watching to see what you do with it. All questions of root cause are secondary to this moment.
Young kids get upset about ridiculous, meaningless things. This is not news. Sock color, who went down the stairs first, missing a chance to push a button, having to wait ten seconds. This list could go on forever, but I'm stopping there. But that's actually AWESOME because therein lies the opportunity! The topic is trivial and the stakes are low. That is the moment to focus on the emotional reaction and develop the coping mechanisms, because as they get older, their problems will get more complicated. They'll need to rationally work their way through things, problem solve, consider the consequences, etc.
My current experimental technique involves spending no more than 5-10 seconds addressing a meltdown-level problem logically. Anything more than that is meaningless noise. Priority one becomes consciously and deliberately adjusting my own emotional state so that I can help Child out of theirs. How, you might ask?
Pretend you've just been handed poop. If that can't make you laugh, you probably didn't get very far into this post.