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  • Back On Track Early Childhood Professionals

Tantrums VS Meltdowns

Updated: Apr 14

Is there a difference?

During a recent workshop, I was discussing Tantrums and 2 year old’s and offering the parents attending the workshop some of my tried and tested techniques to use when their child is having a tantrum.

After going in to detail a parent asked

"What is the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown?"

Well my initial response was, not much, I feel it may just be another term used for tantrums and I moved on to the next slide on my PowerPoint.

When I got home that night and I was reflecting on the workshop I kept thinking about that question and decided I would blog about it!

BUT.......first research.

First step Google…….Hmmmm the first few responses and articles I read described a very distinct difference.

Next step, books..... Off to the book shop I went and came across The Whole Brain-Child By Daniel Siegel.

Well what an eye opener this book was.

Daniel describes the difference perfectly

A Tantrum is

  • When a child decides to throw a fit

  • They consciously decide to act out

  • They are capable of stopping at anytime

  • They can control their emotions

Ways to respond as a parent or caregiver

  • Clear response

  • Firm boundaries

  • Clear discussion about appropriate behaviour and inappropriate behaviour

  • Follow through on consequences

By providing set limits you are giving the child a chance to practice seeing what the consequences are for their inappropriate actions and teaching them to control their impulses. You are teaching respectful communication, patience and delayed gratification.

Important Life Skills!

A Meltdown is

  • When a child becomes upset about something and they get angry and “Flip their lid”

  • They are screaming, throwing and lashing out

  • They are literally unable to control their actions and emotions

Ways to respond as a parent or caregiver

  • The child needs nurturing and comfort

  • We need to connect and redirect to calm the child down

  • Cuddles and soothing words work well

We need to remind ourselves that our children are dealing with big emotions and they do not have the coping mechanisms in them and we need to teach and role model the appropriate behaviour. We need to remain calm and in control ourselves and demonstrate the correct way to deal with our emotions.

I also came across an article by Janet Lansbury, who we all love and she suggest as parents we

  • Breath

  • Call a friend

  • Do jumping jacks

  • Eat chocolate (My personal favourite)

  • Put the kettle on

  • Pack and unpack the dishwasher

Basically, Janet is offering you a distraction technique to help you as the parent cope with the situation so you are not feeling overwhelmed and run the potential of exploding too (insert Adult Tantrum or Meltdown) Be kind to yourself and your child and work together to get through this difficult stage.

So in conclusion yes there is a distinct difference between tantrums and meltdowns and the way we assess and deal with them are different.

However the recommendations I made in the original blog still stand true and we need remember to stay strong and ignore the undesirable tantrum behaviour and use the same techniques I lined out in my original blog. However if the child is having a meltdown and they are unable to control their emotions, offer comfort first and then an explanation.

(Images are sourced from Google Images and Wix Images Thanks)

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