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How do I deal with toddler meltdown?
First, let me say that “toddler meltdown” is a wonderfully descriptive term; wish I had thought of it. Second, let me say it is easy for someone sitting at a computer responding to your question, as I am, to make any suggestion sound as though it should be a simple matter to stop that behavior if you just did the “right” thing. I hope my response doesn’t give you that impression, for it is rarely as easy to help a child “grow through” such behavior as we think it should be.

Before offering a few suggestions, I want to comment that I think you have already done exactly the right things (requesting words, ignoring). You didn’t describe your emotional state but, because of the frequency of the behavior, it is quite possible you are to some extent losing your own cool whenever this occurs. Try to be matter-of-fact about the episodes. If one occurs when he is in a different room, unless you are afraid he will hurt himself or damage something, just stay in a different room and don’t say or do anything. If he is in the same room with you, and again you are not concerned about safety, walk away with a remark something like, “I’m out of here when you sound like that.” But I really think your best bet is to anticipate the episodes and try to distract him and to prevent them. You sound like a good observer to me, and you can probably tell when the clouds are forming. Note the time of day when they are most likely. Maybe he is tired and needs your guidance in doing something relaxing. Make a suggestion, offer a snack, ask if you can read to him, get out a favorite toy, etc.—and maybe the clouds will evaporate and the sun will come out!
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education