Little People, Big Feelings by Gen Muir OUT NOW

It’s not about 'the banana’ - the magic that stops a meltdown

littlekids meltdown toddler Apr 22, 2024

When little kids have big feelings, it can be extra confusing because it often appears to be about something that makes ‘no sense’….

Like snatching whatever the baby touches then completely falling apart when corrected....

Or having a complete public meltdown because they didn’t get to push button in a lift.

When I was around 10 days postpartum with my fourth child my two year old asked me for a banana. As I was peeling the banana I did what you should never, ever do to a toddler.

I accidentally BROKE IT IN HALF.

Anyone who has known a two year old knows this is an absolute no no when it comes to toddlers.

My son was devastated….

He was screaming over and over: “Banana broken”.

I didn't have anymore bananas so I initially tried to console him with logic…. “it tastes just the same”

Then facts… “Look in the bowl - I have apples, but I don’t have any more bananas”

 I tried to fix it: “How about I chop it up?” Or "pop in a bowl with a. spoon?”

Feeling desperate distraction kicked in..... “What about some TV??”

He remained on the floor screaming with giant tears running down his face…


What was becoming increasingly clear was that my son was NOT going to be consoled.  He was screaming so loud I wondered when the neighbours would call the police, and in this moment I was struggling….

I wanted and needed the crying to stop.

Struggling to find my calm, my compassion..and I could feel this huge building but unmistakable desire to scream “GO TO YOUR ROOM!!!!!” rising very fast within my body.

I knew sending my son to his room wasn’t the answer, but in the moment it almost felt like the only choice… and then I remembered this one thing that helped:

“I don’t need to fix this, I just need to let him know I get it”……

I took a deep breath, I sat down on the floor in our kitchen next to my son, I softened my face, opened my palms towards him.

Eventually, when I sensed he might hear me I started to speak to him.

 I only said three things:

  1. Your banana broke, he said “yessssss” through his giant sobs.
  2. You DID NOT want it to break. He was sniffing and gulping.
  3. You are really sad about this. 

This is where something magic happened......

My sons sobs slowed and calmed.

Within six seconds my son’s head was leaning against my shoulder....

Within seven seconds he was eating that bloody banana…….

The world spun back on its axis. I could breathe again, and I sat in silence and awe about how good it can feel to just accept the flipping feelings.

And all I did was narrate what happened.

What happened, what my son wished had happened, and how he might be feeling about it. So simple, and yet such a hard thing to ‘do’ in the reality of everyday parenting.

I still can't believe to this day how quickly genuinely acknowledging his feelings helped to calm him down, and yet how hard it was to do the one thing our kids, (and actually all if us) need in order to feel seen and heard. 

I find it incredible that while we can “know” what kids need at a cognitive level, finding this ability to really see our kids under pressure remains one of the hardest parts of parenting. Even for parent educators. 

But the biggest realisation of all came to me later that night.

It was NOT about the banana.

Yep, only after I put my gorgeous batman obsessed son in his cot that night did I click….

I had a baby only 10 days ago, I’d gone away for 5 days to have the baby and that was the longest my son had ever been away from me.

While it’s a fact (that he made clear) that he was upset his banana broke.

It’s also likely that he was also processing the recent monumental change in his life of becoming a big brother. Not to mention the highs and lows of being two that include navigating a day at day-care with big feelings to get out at home.

When that banana broke, my son was just simply unable to regulate though one more thing. It was the proverbial tip, of the iceberg.

I think this story highlights where our brain and the instinct to go into fight, flight, or freeze will take us in the moment. How despite knowing how we want to respond on paper, our underlying programming, our fear, our emotions can really block our ability to see that clearly in the moment.

We are trying to be with our kids through their feelings in a way that is pretty different to the way this was done in the past.

While you know at a cognitive level this is what your child needs, at an emotional level you feel unsafe and your brain is quickly escalating your thinking into a place of fight, flight or freeze. It’s hard to learn to catch, but not impossible with practice, self-reflection, and loads of self-compassion when you muck it all up.

There is a moment where we notice “nothings working” and we feel the pressure building in our body. This is the moment where we can pause, even just for a second and notice what’s happening in our body and how this might be about us more than our child.

This pause offers us a choice about whether we keep running on auto-pilot and keep ‘fighting the feelings’ or we surrender to them and try just for a moment to sit in the discomfort and be with our child in their sadness, frustration, anger or jealousy.

The surrender part is where the shift happens. The fear and panic fall away, and suddenly instead of looking at a tiny terrorist we see our child. Tiny, and struggling to communicate and express so many big emotions.

If you are a parent and you find this resonates and you struggle in these moments, I want you to know you are not alone and we all struggle with this stuff – no one, I mean no one rides the parenting emotion bus for free, the struggle is in all of us.

Next time your child is losing it about the banana, the toast cut wrong, or the fact you pushed the button in a lift I want you to remember it’s about the banana, AND it’s not just about the banana.........

And you don’t need to fix, solve or change your child in the moment.

What they really want more than anything else is to feel seen and heard, and a little less alone as they learn to feel their feelings. 

Gen Muir is an Author, speaker, social worker, parent educator and mum to four boys. You can buy her book Little People Big Feelings here. 



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