Toddler Conflict Resolution Tool: Give in Fantasy What You Can’t Give in Reality

Dealing with toddler meltdowns? Do they want you to take the steering wheel off of your car and hand it to you? Do they want to build a snowman in the middle of July? These are typical toddler meltdowns. This tool is great for these situations.

Give to them in fantasy what you can’t give in reality. If they want a snowman, you might say, “Oh I remember how much fun it was to build snow men! I remember how we saw one with [a scarf/a nose]. I wish it were snowing right now. How big of a snowman would we build?”

Or if they want the steering wheel off your car, you might, if able, draw a steering wheel for them and hand it to them. My experience is it’s very effective at taming big emotions.

I got this tool from Dr. Ginott’s classic, Between Parent and Child. I am not sure if he ever applied it to the toddler age but it’s very powerful. Thank you, Dr. Ginott!

I start using this tool at Toddler Milestone 5 which is at 2 years, 1 months. This milestone is named “Persistence and Insistence.” Big heavy emotions develop at this milestone and they are no longer easily distracted. They know what they want and insist on it. And sometimes what they want makes no sense. This tool comes in handy from this point on and can be used in different ways all throughout childhood.

Let me know how this works for you! Please share with a frustrated parent dealing with these meltdowns.

See my book Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to the Toddler Years for more.

4 thoughts on “Toddler Conflict Resolution Tool: Give in Fantasy What You Can’t Give in Reality

  1. Talya says:

    Absolutely love and agree with this. My 2 year old (and 2 months) wanted a blue balloon, when all we had was yellow. So I told her with the power of our imagination we can pretend to make it blue. We closed our eyes tight made up a magic spell, and voila! We pretended the balloon was blue! And she was happy

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