Meltdowns, tantrums, outbursts, whatever term you use, are when your toddler or child are so overwhelmed by their emotions they lose control. They might screaming and cry, throw themselves at the floor, hit, kick, pinch, or bit, they might refuse to move.
This can be so confronting to deal with because you often cannot reason at all with them while they are having a tantrum and they can become more overwhelmed if you try.
Below are some tips that might help – though often your child will need to just let it all out and there’s not a lot you can do to stop them
Offer them comfort. Try offering a hug, with your arms out and verbally invite them to you – because they are already so overwhelmed and out of control they may not want to be made to have a cuddle, but gain some sense of control if they can choose to come to you for comfort. Though if they indicate they want you to go to them, or pick them up – do.
Stay close and present. If they decline a cuddle, or fight you away, try sitting down near to them. They are fighting – hitting, kicking, scratching – you may want to remain out of reach, but still be giving them the message that no matter what they do, you are still there for them.
Offer a distraction. Best to wait until the tantrum is starting to taper off in intensity, offer them a drink of water, favourite toy, suggest a new activity like a walk, or play outside.
Stay calm. Try to keep calm, if you start shouting at them, or punish them for an emotional outburst then you’ll likely only make the tantrum worse, and last longer. However, if you do find yourself getting overwhelmed and you shout at them, try to take that a lesson of understanding that if as an adult you can’t always maintain calm and control over yourself, how could someone very small do any better.
Prevention. After the tantrum is over, try to reflect on what happened before it took place. Were you rushing around the shops, were you too busy all day, were they hungry or thirsty, tired or bored, and had those needs delayed for too long? Could it be diet related – consider what processed or sugary foods they may have consumed in the time leading up to the meltdown? Is there anything they wanted, but cannot have, that needs to be removed from their view in future? You may not always be able to identify a cause of a meltdown, nor can you always prevent them, but it can be very helpful to reflect on why?
Also see Calming a Crying Baby, as some of the tips may apply.