So, what do you do during "meltdowns?" - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 05-07-2003, 05:32 PM - Thread Starter
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I've heard and read different strategies for when your child is having a meltdown or a total tantrum. DD is almost 16 months old, so I'm not talking about an older child that you could possibly reason with. The situation I'm talking about is a toddler that wants something, wants it now and will scream, cry, bite or hit out of frustration. Mind you, dd is not like this all the time, I just want to get an idea of what things work for you. I want to start setting a good precedent now before things get out of control. Anyway....

Some books suggest that you should calmly talk to the child, restrain them, if necessary, and wait for the tantrum to subside.

Some advocate walking away and coming back when the child calms down.

Some advocate re-affirming what the child wants, but explaining why he/she can't have it or do it and not offer any substitutes.

Some advocate distraction

Some suggest that you should Firmly say why child can't have X

Some suggest letting the child do the activity, so long as it doesn't harm them, or someone around them?

Sooooooo, what types of tactics do you use. One, all, a combination?

Anything else that I missed?

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#2 of 5 Old 05-07-2003, 05:46 PM
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I think that it is important to know your toddler well. Different kids respond to different techniques.

When Jake was that age, I would say "You sound very angry. I'm going to play over here and you can come play whenever you are ready." Then, I would grab one of his puzzles or toys and play until he was ready to join me. He needed his space but he needed me nearby too.

Another kid I know gets more upset with that approach. She needs to be comforted and then redirected. A quick hug or pat on the back and then a suggested activity gets her back on track.
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If compromise doesn't work, I usually try to empathize, although I'm pretty sure at that point in a tantrum she can't hear much of what I'm saying. If she'll let me, I stroke her back and tell her I understand she is upset and how hard it can be to accept whatever the tantrum is about. Sometimes she kicks and screams and stomps on the ground. If she escalates to trying to hit or bite me, I move a soft object between us (like a pillow) and tell her quietly I can't allow her to hurt me, herself or anyone else, but if she needs to hit or bite, she can hit or bite the pillow. At her age (2 1/2) I think she tantrums mostly out of need for emotional release, so I want to be there for her, just like when she was an infant and feeling fussy or irritable.

I used to feel really panicy, like I had to figure out a way to stop her. But now I feel it is better to let tantrums run their course. is offline  
#4 of 5 Old 05-07-2003, 07:27 PM
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I agree with benwood. It depends on the child. But I can tell you how I handle meltdowns with my child. I really try to keep anything she can't have out of her sight, or at least out of her reach. However, that is not always possible, and also sometimes I slip up. Like the other day she found dh's wallet and was pulling everything out of it, and he really didn't want her to play with it. I tried distraction, but it didn't work, so I had to take the wallet away from her, and she got really upset. For us what works is to pick her up and hold her close. Some children need to be left alone, but dd gets *really* upset. She needs to be babied, and that usually defuses the tantrum. She never hits or bites me, she just screams and cries, so I just hold her until it is over. I think it is good to let them know it is okay to be angry as long as they are not hurting anyone else or themselves.

That is our technique right now, but she hasn't yet done something to intentionally explore boundaries. She only does things because she doesn't know any better. So our technique may change as dd changes.
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#5 of 5 Old 05-07-2003, 09:50 PM
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I also try to keep things she's not supposed to have out of dd's sight or reach, but even then she'll spot something she wants.

She is comparatively very mild and will cry and squirm a bit. She likes/needs to be held then, and for me the focus changes immediately from what the issue was, to my dd needing comfort. I stay calm because she needs me to, hug her and whisper that I know she's upset, etc.

The other day she brought the computer mouse in to me in the kitchen, said "mouse?" and gave it to me . I guess the repitition and redirection are paying off!

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