How to Handle a Toddler Meltdown

Parenting is amazing, but we all know that some parts of parenting are just insanely tough. The best example is the public temper tantrums. Public meltdowns can be the worst! For some parents, especially first-time parents, they can be embarrassing. It doesn’t matter that this happens to most parents; at that moment it is happening to you and it is hard. The hardest part are the stares you receive from strangers that have underlying condemnation.

When your child is screaming or wriggling on the mall’s floor, you cannot help but wonder if everyone is thinking how bad a parent you are. Our kids usually know when to time their tantrums and it is normally at the worst of times. Also, if you have more than one kid, sometimes they will play off of each other.

I want to let you know, as horrible as these moments are, children are still learning all about emotions and how to handle them.

It can be very frustrating for the parent and if not careful, it can easily make you lose your cool as well. Stick with us, because there are a number of different ways this could go and this piece highlights some of the tips you can use when your child is having a meltdown.


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Avoid the tantrum entirely

You know your child better than everyone else. Most likely, by now you know what throws them into a fit. It would be best to avoid these tantrums completely by taking care of these possibilities. When you know what triggers their outburst, you will be ready to take care of the problem before it gets to the tantrum stage.

For example, if your child has a meltdown in the mall, pay attention to what happened beforehand. Try to avoid those situations in the future, and it can help curb these escalated situations.

Distract the child

Children are easily distracted. They have a very short attention span. They can go from crying their heart out to laughing loudly in the same breath. Again, they are still learning emotions and how to handle those big emotions.  When they start throwing tantrums in public, find something that will distract them. If it’s interesting enough, it might keep them occupied for some time and they might forget that they were having a meltdown altogether.

You can also distract a child with words. Instead of saying “don’t be a baby” you can say “I know you’re very upset but….” Then from there try to redirect their attention to something different. This way, you have acknowledged them but then also try to divert the situation.

Ignore them

This strategy works sometimes and sometimes it just backfires. It mostly depends on the personality of your child. Other times it depends on what has been going on during the day, or what triggers caused the public meltdown in the first place. When your child knows that causing tantrums won’t be the best way to gain your attention, they might refrain from doing so. In most cases, kids cause tantrums as a way of forcing your attention toward something they want. 

Remember that this may take a few tries. If you ignore the behavior 3 out of 4 times but acknowledge it on the fourth time your child will actually cling onto that and try much harder. If you decide to go with the ignoring method, you have to be extremely careful to make sure it is a constant, consistent response otherwise it may make the situation worse instead of better.

Reward good behavior

Remind you child that good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished. Also, make sure that you are telling them in advanced what is expected. When they behave well, give them something as a gift or sort of reward. Or, a simple acknowledgment and gratitude for good behavior could also go a long way. In all honesty, do you know what works for me? Bending down to my child’s eye level and telling them, “you did a great job! I’m so proud of you!” And ending it with a big high five. 

When they realize that raising tantrums gets punished and keeping their cool gets rewarded, they will be more inclined to behave better next time.

Be calm and collected

It won’t do you much good to fly into a rage when your child is throwing a tantrum. This just fuels the kids’ behavior. It also teaches them that the behavior is acceptable since you are engaging in the same behavior. There needs to be someone with a sense of calm to keep balance in the scenario. No matter what they do, keep your cool and deal with the situation subjectively and firmly. Talk to them while looking straight into their eyes and let them know that what they are doing is wrong and won’t be tolerated. 

This may mean you need to walk away from the situation or count to ten. It can seem amateur, but we all need that reminder to keep our composure.

Laugh it off and don’t give into their demands

Do not give into their demands. If it works the first time, they will hold you captive all the time. Laugh off the tantrum (especially if it’s something funny, such as, your toddler being mad at you because you didn’t give them the correct color of sippy cup), make silly faces, turn on a fun song and start dancing. Your child may be confused because this was not the reaction they were hoping to get from you. Their brains have a hard time understanding why they can’t have something that they really want. Even as adults, we are conditioned to get what we want, even if it means going into debt over it. Remember, your toddler isn’t acting out to make you mad, they are still trying to figure out their emotions. Our little toddlers have big emotions:) This is a time of training for you as a parent. But it needs to be consistent for it to work. 


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