It seems that many people use the terms "temper tantrum" and "meltdown" interchangeably but the two are actually quite different according to experts. Read on to find out what makes them contrast.
Children have difficulty regulating emotions. Younger children have a range of different emotions that some see as a right of passage. In a sense, kids test their parents' boundaries by acting out, either by throwing a tantrum or having a full-on meltdown.
According to TodaysParent.com, here's how to handle each after you have successfully classified what you are dealing with.
Tantrums or temper tantrums usually start in toddlerhood. These lovely episodes are usually brought on when the child is told "no" after wanting to do something that is deemed too dangerous by the parent (such as climbing onto something) or wants something that they can not have.
Associate Professor Amori Mikami of the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia says that the tantrum is a toddler's tactic to test limits to see if they can get what they want.
Mikami says that the best course of action is to tell the child once, firmly and calmly "No, you can't have or do this because of this..." and after that, ignore the tantrum. Mikami says that most children will realize that their tactic is futile and give up.
On the other hand, a meltdown looks similar to a tantrum to the people watching it happen but there's a huge difference because to the child, it is not happening by choice. There's no tactic. It's the result of the child becoming so over-stimulated or emotionally overwhelmed that he or she can't keep it together anymore.
“The child has pretty much lost all control at this point and doesn’t even know what they want—or don’t want—anymore. And he or she isn’t doing this behaviour in any strategic sort of way,” says Mikami.
Mikami also says that to deal with a meltdown, every child is different in how they choose to calm down. Parents can try talking it out, hugging the child, leading the child into a quiet space to decompress or having a special "fidget" toy ready to go for situations just like these so that the child can just focus on something besides their racing mind.
As kids get older, they are able to regulate their emotions better so take heart. Tantrums and meltdowns won't last forever. Do you have any advice for handling tantrums and meltdowns? Let us know in the comments!