No matter how long you’ve been parenting a toddler, you know that epic meltdowns are something fierce. You also probably know that you can try a variety of things to help your toddler get through those meltdowns and eventually snap out of it. A few initial things that always come to mind are empathy, storytelling, and keeping your child well fed and rested.
No brainers, right?
But there are times when the epic meltdown is so out-of-control-madness that you aren’t sure anything will work.
That’s okay because there is a new approach you can take.
The story behind the approach.
A few days ago, we were having a regular Saturday family adventure. My husband and I took our son for a day at the beach, some shopping and out to lunch. Things were going pretty well, but he was pretty antsy the whole morning. We try to keep our adventures to mostly just the morning since our son needs to rest at some point in the afternoon.
It was getting to be about that time to head home. It’s that window where you know you have a limited amount of time before the epic meltdown ensues. So we left our adventure in exchange for a siesta back at the house.
Or so we thought.
When we returned home, our son lost it and entered into the point of no return. Everything made him angry, putting him deeper and deeper into the toddler meltdown of the century. I decided it was time to take a new approach with this one.
The new approach.
The idea is not to worry about stopping the meltdown, but rather, allowing it to happen as it may. You simply allow your child to have his moment crying and flailing around, while offering support as needed. This is actually something Dr. Laura Markham talks about in her book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting.
The idea is to create a controlled or scheduled meltdown of sorts. Sometimes kids just need a good cry to let all the frustration out, and without that release, the misbehavior just continues.
Using the approach, you just allow the meltdown to just happen.
To just let the epic meltdown chips fall where they may.
This is also something that Cari Dugan recently talked about in a blog post called You Never Let Me Cry.
Similar to Markam, Dugan talks candidly about allowing her child to have a moment to cry. To just let it all out, while offering support when needed such as a reassuring phrase (e.g. I’m here for you or I love you) or a simple touch of the hand or pat on the back.
There’s a twist of course.
In the midst of my son’s major toddler meltdown, I offered simple reassurance without going over the top. One thing Markham suggests is hugging your child during the meltdown. My son didn’t care to be touched in any way, shape or form. So instead I said things like…
You’re really angry that you can’t go outside right now.
I’m sorry that you’re so angry.
It’s okay to feel angry.
After he had a good cry of 10-15 minutes, I decided it was time to ease him into a nap using my good ‘ole standby trick. I took him into his bedroom, pulled the curtains, threw his blanket over my shoulder and propped him up on my hip.
And then I started with the breathing…
In and out.
In and out.
This is a trick I’ve used many times before to help my son fall asleep fast. It’s also a great trick to wind down from a good cry.
In and out.
In and out.
It took him a bit, but eventually he started to take a few deep breaths and settle down a bit. The awesome part about the deep breathing is that it calms you down as the parent, and it calms your toddler down at the same time. It’s a beautiful thing.
The final approach.
So if you find yourself in a situation with a toddler throwing the age of all meltdowns, take a new approach: let your child have the meltdown and then start the deep breathing to help your toddler calm down.
It might work.
It might not.
But hey, it’s worth a try.
Want more on toddlers?
- How to Help Toddlers Cope with Big Emotions
- 10 Empowering Ways to Improve Toddler Listening
- The Secret Only Moms of Toddlers Really Know
- One Simple Trick to Help Kids Fall Asleep Fast
What’s your best approach to the epic toddler meltdown? Let’s chat in the comments!
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Rachel @ A Mother Far from Home
Love. Love. Love.
Lauren, I just stumbled onto your website, looking for info on strong willed toddlers and have spent over an hour reading! I love everything you have shared. My question to you…I feel like my toddler (just turned 2 yrs old on Jan 3) is too young to understand the empathizing methods you’ve shared (both in words and in matching intensity), when it comes to tantrums, etc. How old was your son when you noticed things ‘clicking’ for him?
PS, I subscribed to one e-course via email already, thank you for making that available!
Just came across this and had a question. What would you do when a 2yr old is having a meltdown but literally won’t stop hysterically crying/nearly hyperventilating for 15-20min? For example, my 2yr old boy got his car taken away because he was screaming and throwing a fit about it doing something it couldn’t do. Then he spiraled into crying hysterically and I let him cry but it got to the point where he was practically hyperventilating. Anytime I try deep breathing he gets angry and screams worse. He didn’t end up calming down for probably 20min after I got him a snack (which he had already had but when he finally got words out, that’s what he asked for). I just don’t know how to help in the situation. Every thing I try makes it worse.