3 Tips for Parenting Meltdowns

Seeing your child have a meltdown can be both heart-wrenching and frustrating. Five minutes ago, you were simply going about your day together. Now, they’re red in the face with tears pouring down. How do these emotional outbursts happen so fast, and what can you do to help your child express themselves more calmly and productively?

It’s normal for children to have meltdowns, especially when they’re toddlers. However, these sometimes unexplainable outbursts aren’t limited to children who are just learning to communicate. They can happen at all ages as children strive for a greater level of independence and feel new and often challenging emotions.

Meltdown Prevention Strategies to Use with Your Child

Usually once a meltdown is triggered, there’s no stopping it. That’s why preventative strategies are so important to reducing your child’s urge to throw a tantrum. 

Take a look at some of our tips below to encourage calm behavior and nip meltdowns in the bud.

Let Them Help You

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how you would feel in your child’s shoes. If you were able to see the world from their perspective, you’d remember how tough it is to be unable to do things for yourself. 

Young toddlers, and even older children, often desperately want to be able to do things on their own. However, “doing things” takes practice, and parents don’t always have the time or patience to let their children experiment with big kid tasks.

It’s essential and energizing for people of all ages – including children – to feel they have autonomy and to be given a purpose. Allowing your child to help out with everyday activities and giving them a sense of responsibility can release some of their frustration and allow them to practice doing things on their own. 

Buy a kid-sized broom and dustpan so they can lend a hand with tidying up, or task them with separating the colors from the whites in the laundry hamper. Sure, it may take longer than if you were to do it, but it may also help prevent an unforeseen meltdown.

Offer Options Whenever Possible

Another way to help young children gain the autonomy they crave is to offer them options even in situations when they don’t necessarily have a choice about the ultimate outcome. 

For example, if they’re pushing back on getting dressed in the morning, give them the options of two different outfits to wear. Getting dressed isn’t a choice, but what color and style they wear is. As a result, they’ll feel more in control of their own situation and be distracted from their frustration about having to get dressed in the first place.

If It’s a Reasonable Request, Say “Yes”

It’s understandable that as a parent you get into the habit of saying “no.” 

No, you can’t have a pony. 

No, we can’t eat ice cream for dinner. 

No, skipping school today is not an option. 

You may even get so good at saying “no” that you forget sometimes it’s okay to say “yes.” Yes, you can wear rain boots on a sunny day. Yes, we can have breakfast for dinner. Yes, we can stop by the park after school. 

Saying “yes” to small requests like these won’t inconvenience you significantly, but it will enable your child to feel they have some say in how their own day goes. Allowing your children to make meaningful decisions about their own lives doesn’t just boost their independence. It also shows them you value their feelings and trust them to understand and express themselves.

While these strategies may not halt all meltdowns, they will lay the foundation for a calmer, more communicative relationship with your child. As a result, they won’t feel the need to resort to tears and temper tantrums nearly as often.