Toddler Meltdown

How to Prevent and Cope with Toddler Meltdowns? Here are 10 Ways.

Tuz is almost 3 years old. He is a happy and hyperactive child and is typically in his terrible twos. What I mean by this is that most of the time he is just happy playing by himself, playing with us or playing with other kids at the farm. Even though he gets moody and stubborn from time to time, especially when his sleep is disturbed or when he’s tired and couldn’t seem to go to slumber, he easily gets back to his positive, happy, hyperactive self. He doesn’t hold grudges (I know some toddlers who do hold grudges for a long time) and I’m just glad that with Tuz, after a certain episode of scolding and spanking — yes we spank our kid — it’s like nothing happened and he forgets all about it and gets back to his laughing, playing, hugging and kissing mood.

He also knows how to express his feelings at this age. Like when he just wants to cry, he will tell me “Tuz cry” or “Tuz angry”. After a few minutes, he will simply stop crying and then he will ask me to clean his face by saying “Clean it, clean it. Tissue and alcohol.” This means he wants me to get a WET tissue that smells nice and not a dry tissue but not necessarily put alcohol on it. I do put alcohol at the corner of the tissue if the wet tissue is not the fragrant kind. Then I wipe his eyes and nose with the fragrant wet tissue. He is OC like that (he probably got it from me coz I’m OC too) and we are really lucky to have him.

But on those moments, when he does have a meltdown, it can really be hell at home. He won’t stop crying. Spanking doesn’t help. He shouts. I shout. Mahal remains calm and becomes the referee between me and Tuz. And I just cry in a corner out of frustration and desperation which makes Tuz cry some more too. It’s a scenario I don’t want to relive. I’m sure you mommies out there get the picture.

Below is a video of Tuz I took weeks before when I couldn’t understand what he wanted me to do and ended up crying and crying for what seemed like an eternity…

Eventually, I was able to understand what he wanted me to do. He just wanted me to put his toy inside its box. And when I finally understood it, that’s when he stopped crying. This video is not even his typical meltdown. It’s just a basic display of pure frustration because I couldn’t understand what he was saying.

So what is a meltdown? According to https://childmind.org/article/why-do-kids-have-tantrums-and-meltdowns/, there is a distinction between tantrums and meltdowns in toddlers:

Many people make a distinction between tantrums and meltdowns, though neither is a clinical term. “Tantrum” is commonly used to describe milder outbursts, during which a child still retains some measure of control over his behavior. One benchmark many parents use is that a tantrum is likely to subside if no one is paying attention to it. This is opposed to a meltdown, during which a child loses control so completely that the behavior only stops when he wears himself out and/or the parent is able to calm him down.

So how can we prevent meltdowns from happening? I’ve listed down 10 tips. Please do share more in the comments section if you’ve used other tricks that worked for you.

1. Let your child sleep

I’ve learned through my own observations and experiences that meltdowns happen to Tuz when he doesn’t get enough rest.

Just to give you a background, both of us are usually on US time zone. I’ve been this way because it was required for my business back in 2008-2011 so I can work during the working hours of my US clients. And even now that this isn’t a requirement for my clients anymore (I now do my VA business on my own time), the body clock has stuck with me. No matter how many times I’ve tried to change it, even during my pregnancy when I stopped working for 9 months, the body clock stayed with me. So Tuz has also been on US time zone since he was conceived. Though we would both, from time to time, go back to Philippine time especially when we’re traveling coz we have no choice but to stay awake during the day for our travels, the moment we get back home, we slide back to our normal routine of being awake at night til morning and sleeping in the morning til afternoon.

So what I do is, if there is really no need to wake up Tuz, we let him sleep 10-16 hours if he wants to. If he wants to nap in the middle of his day, we let him.

In the event that we have to wake him up because we’re catching a plane or need to be somewhere at a particular time, we just give him tissue bath while he sleeps, dress him up while he sleeps, and let him go on sleeping while traveling. We would know that he has gotten enough rest coz he wakes up smiling and laughing when he’s rested. Otherwise, he would be moody and easily gets ticked off when he is not well rested.

So let your child rest. It will save you a lot of tantrums and meltdowns.

2. Feed your child on time.

It’s only recently that Tuz would eat real food during proper meal times. Before this, he would only drink his milk every 3 hours and eat cookies and chocolates when he wants to. How ironic that we live at the farm half the time but Tuz doesn’t like eating fruits and veggies. He likes to play with them but doesn’t like eating them. He is only able to eat nutritious food when I’d sneak in super tiny bits and pieces of vegetables and fruits into his rice and soup. Otherwise, he would spit out the whole thing. I don’t stress over it during this time because I know he still gets the nutrients he needs from his milk and his daily vitamins. One indication of this is that he has never been sick and even after all his vaccines, he doesn’t get any fever, so we know that he’s healthy. But soon, I will really do my research and share with you in the event that I am successful, on how I can make my child eat fruits and vegetables. For now, for the purposes of the topic of this blog post, the important thing is for your child to never go hungry to prevent tantrums and meltdowns. It’s the same with adults I guess. When we’re hungry, we get moody too, right?

3. Provide routine for your child.

I’m speaking for myself when I say that this part is quite difficult. We are the type of family who doesn’t have a particular routine. By the time I’d list down the routine I want to follow in a day, it has already changed. We basically do what we feel like doing at the moment. Though we have a master list of the important things we need to do in a day and have delegated the rest to our people (we now have two full-time farm helpers and a few part-timers, yey!), we do first what we feel like doing first. So I guess it’s the same for Tuz. When a child doesn’t know what to expect in a given day, it would be difficult for him to manage his energy and emotions which could result to a meltdown. It’s a good thing that our life is quite simple. We wake up, do whatever, eat, nap, do whatever, eat, nap, do whatever, eat, do whatever, then sleep. That’s basically our routine, if I may call that a routine. So in a way, Tuz follows the same and also do whatever he wants in between meals and sleep (He plays with his toys, reads his books, plays with farm kids, runs around the farm, watches TV, plays with my phone.. he does all these in no particular order). His meltdown happens when suddenly we have to go out for errands. His “do whatever” time will be disrupted and that’s when hell would break loose. He doesn’t want to take a bath, he doesn’t want to dress up, he doesn’t want to go out. A meltdown would then ensue. So to prevent this, we do #4.

4. Verbally prepare your child about your schedule.

If I know that tomorrow we would be going out to run errands or travel, we’d tell Tuz that. Even at his young age of two, he remembers to the point that the next day he would be the one to tell us that we’re going out. This way, he would know what to expect and in the event that his “do whatever” time gets disrupted, with a little reminder of what we told him yesterday, he would easily oblige, take a bath, dress up without severely fussing about it.

5. Stay calm and be consistent.

I know this is hard especially when you’re tired from work and all the house chores that you feel like you want to have a meltdown yourself! Believe me when I say that I’ve been there many times. However, I noticed that when I do stay calm and consistent with my words and actions, the tantrum doesn’t turn to a full-blown meltdown. It takes a lot of discipline and patience (at least for me) to reach this stage of pure calm and collectedness but it’s doable and so worth it.

6. Pick your battles.

You don’t always have to say no to your child. Toddlers are by nature very curious and exploratory which is part of their development. If we always tell them to not do this, not do that, we are actually hindering their development. Toddlers are like little scientists. As long as we just make sure that they’re safe in what they’re doing and that they are not harming others, and you’re always there to explain things to them then let them mess around, experiment and play. It will make them happier, help them grow to be more independent, confident and self-reliant and will make your day more peaceful and quiet as well. Just don’t mind the mess.

7. Try humor or havE a tickle fest

This worked for us almost all the time. Maybe because Tuz is just a fun-loving, happy child to begin with, I’m not sure. But you can try it. In the middle of tantrums, try laughing it off or making funny faces or tickling your child or making fun of the moment. Tuz would almost instantly just laugh when we do this and he’d forget, for a little while, that he is having a tantrum. When we see that he is in a happy mood, that’s when we do the next step.

8. Try distracting him.

When your child is making tantrums, distract him with a different toy, another activity or a change of scenery. This works most of the time. It works best when Tuz is not yet on a full-blown meltdown and especially after we’ve tickled him.

9. Don’t give in.

I’ve experienced it before that in order to retain the peace and quiet at home or in public, I’d just give in to Tuz’s demands so he would stop his meltdown. But this should not be the case because the child will just repeat his tantrum the next time. Instead of you controlling him, it would be the other way around. It would be him controlling you and that is not good.

If you know that what you’re saying is for the good of your child, then don’t give in to his/her demands. Calmly tell him what you want to tell him or calmly explain to him why you want this or why he can’t do this. The child must know who is the boss and that you’re doing this because you love him. For example, what we’d usually tell Tuz is “We can’t understand you/help you when you’re crying. When you’re done crying, we can talk about it so Mimi and Dada will understand.” That usually makes him stop crying. When push comes to shove (because all of us are already stressed at this point), we tell him “We’ll take away your toy (or milk) if you don’t stop crying.” That also makes him stop crying. After that, you should still put an effort to calmly talk to him and ask him what he wants or calmly explain to him why he can’t have what he wants. Then do tips #7 and #8 again.

10. Express love always.

It’s important to always assure your child that you love him/her no matter what. When he/she has calmed down, assure him with a hug and a kiss and kind words. Ask him what made him so upset so mommy and daddy will understand better next time. Give him a warm hug and introduce a fun activity.

We’re quite lucky in this area because even before we assure him, Tuz would already say “Sorry, Mimi” or Sorry, Dada” and hug us. Then that’s the time we tell him sorry too and that we love him.

I hope these tips will help you, dear mommies, especially those who have yet experienced the terrible twos with their child. I’m sure there are still more tips out there but for me, these are the basic ones that I try to follow because they work most of the time.

One important thing before I end this post is to not take all this personally. Even when your child is saying “I hate you” for example, it’s not about you. It’s just simply a display of their own frustrations. Take some time out if you need to so you won’t have a meltdown yourself and in case you notice that your child’s tantrums are getting worse no matter what you do, it could be a sign of an underlying psychological problem and it might be time to seek medical help.

That’s all for now, dear parents. Til my next post! Thank you for reading!

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