The Truth About Toddler Meltdowns
Updated: Feb 25
For many parents, meltdowns are your worst nightmare. And trust me—your toddler doesn’t feel too great about them either. But what you may not know about meltdowns in children—and what your toddler CERTAINLY doesn’t know about them—is that meltdowns are, in their simplest form, an expression of feelings.
Now, as adults, we’re programmed to see behaviors.
“You’re behaving well.”
“You are being naughty right now.”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever said one of these phrases to your child. And don’t be embarrassed—we’ve ALL done it!
For adults, behaviors are either good or bad. But for children, and especially toddlers, behavior isn’t behavior at all—it’s communication. And I cover it more in-depth in my book, The Yelling Cure.
Our toddlers are enamored by the world around them. They’re curious about it and, by nature, want to come to learn everything they can about it. Yet they’re trapped in these tiny bodies that are terribly difficult to maneuver around adult environments. So in addition to being exciting, the world is equally frustrating for your little one. And having those big ups of excitement followed by large bouts of frustration are completely age appropriate.
Here’s the thing: your tiny human has NO IDEA how to express themselves at this age. They are living life completely from their emotional brain—no rational thought, no empathy, no compassion, and certainly no problem solving skills.
So when our toddlers are happy, life is good! But when they’re sad or mad or frustrated or confused or hurting or disappointed...toddler meltdowns!
How you can help your toddler
Teaching your toddler a full range of emotional vocabulary is important for their development. But you can’t help your little one identify how s/he feels if you can’t identify your feelings. So start by voicing your emotions out loud at home. Sure, it feels strange at first. “I’m feeling frustrated today.” Or maybe, “Mommy is feeling silly right now,” or “Daddy is very happy.” Normalise feelings—good and bad.
Then, the next time your toddler has a meltdown—act as an emotional coach.
“Jimmy has to go home for dinner right now and I can tell you’re disappointed he’s leaving.”
Next, practice normalising their feelings. How? By practising empathy. That’s when you view the situation from your toddler’s perspective (even if you think what they’re upset about is silly).
“You wanted to play with your friend some more. I totally understand how disappointed you must be right now, I know you love playing together.”
And then accept whatever comes. Remember, meltdowns aren’t behavior, as I discuss in The Yelling Cure. Rather they are emotions out of control and since you can’t talk, reason, bribe, or punish your child out of one, you really have to accept the meltdown—not easy, I know!
Approach your child with the energy of acceptance, show them they are loved and lovable even when they have big emotions. Maybe they melt down a bit longer. Maybe they need a hug. Maybe they just need some time. But by maintaining a calm, reassuring energy instead of becoming frustrated or embarrassed by their behavior you can help them learn to harness their emotions—and avoid future meltdowns.
About the Author
Robbin is a global parenting expert. In her work as a Certified Parent Coach, she’s helped thousands of families all over the world, find more joy and connection with their kids so they can have the cooperation and relationship they always wanted.
Robbin’s award winning book, The Yelling Cure, is Mompreneur approved, and has sold over 300,000 copies all over the globe. Robbin hosts the podcast, Parenting our Future, where she helps parents navigate the complicated world of raising kids so they thrive! She has brilliant guests who share their expertise in areas such as, Co-Parenting, sleep solutions, raising boys, managing screen time, keeping your family safe, mental health and so much more.
To find out more about Robbin and her work, visit her here: www.parentingforconnection.com