When No Tools Work for a Toddler Meltdown

I aim to provide tools for parents for when their children are being difficult, especially when having a meltdown. I advocate to and I also always try to calm down a meltdown first, usually by validating the emotion. There are times however that no tool seems to work. What now?

I am including this at Toddler Milestone 7 because because of the feedback given to me about the intensity of and how inconsolable the meltdowns are in this age range. Here is snippets from the feedback, ” … major meltdowns …  meltdowns over everything … tantrum or meltdown over every single thing … the whining!!!” This milestone is from 2 years, 4 months until after 2 years, 5 months. There are two intense periods. The first one is at 2 years, 4 months and the second one is at 2 years, 5 months.

I am definitely not advocating that “you can’t do anything about meltdowns” but there are times when riding the meltdown out might be the only thing to do. You can provide comfort or sometimes go about your business while giving your child the moment they need.

A mom told me that giving in fantasy what you can’t give in reality wasn’t really working at this age range. Her child would get her hopes up and become disappointed. She was having trouble taming meltdowns at this age, 2 years, 5 months.

I also remembered that there was this one time that my daughter simply could not be consoled. I checked my notes of when that was and, bam, it was at 2 years, 5 months on the dot, this exact age. My daughter got extremely upset that her banana got cut in half. Nothing was working. I wrote, “I’ve had to learn to ride most of the meltdowns out.” For that particular meltdown, she calmed down when I got her strawberries. This may have allowed her mind to get off of the banana. I also wrote this, ” I catch myself sometimes wanting or expecting her to do something, even just take off her shoes. I ask, ‘does it really matter?’ And it allows me to flow better, so that I can have a cuddle or put on a soothing song or even take care of my infant while she rides out the strong emotion.”

My daughter at 2 years, 5 months

Sometimes, people need a moment. Think of a time you were in extreme distress. At some point, did you want to just be left alone? I always advocate to look at the child and monitor their response to see if your approach is working. Add this as one approach that might work: give them some space. Continue to monitor it, but see if this might help them settle.

Here is another story from 2 years, 4 months, when no other tool seemed to work and finally just getting away from the situation and putting on some songs helped.

“Today, my son, 4, got out the Wii Fit and played a golf game on it. The character on the screen drives the golf ball towards a putting green. My daughter all of a sudden had a total meltdown. She kept asking where the balls were going and kept trying to push the stand the TV was on over. She thought the balls were going “behind the TV” and just had a total meltdown over it.

I was reminded about a story I read about a lady who dealt with an aging parent who had dementia. When the elderly person would start to worry that he lost his wallet, the caregiver would try showing him his wallet to prove it was not gone. It didn’t work. She eventually learned to just indulge the thought and not try to prove him wrong.

My son, 4, tried doing exactly this. “There are no balls behind the tv!” Then he showed her, “Look! They are on the tv!” This made it so much worse.

I tried indulging her a bit, or, I should say, acknowledging the worry. “You are worried about the balls?” “You think they are behind the tv?” It didn’t work. She kept relentlessly trying to push the stand.

Conveniently, all of her lovies, which are almost always in her bed, were missing this morning. Did I mention the crying baby (4 months old, also in an irritable period) also? What eventually calmed her down is when I put on nursery rhyme songs for her.

Though my son focused more on proving to my daughter her concern was of no worry, I was thrilled when he said, “This first day of Valentine’s Day is really rough!” (We were doing a Valentine’s Day activity that started that day.) I was so pleased that he recognized that it’s not that his sister is permanently difficult, but that this was all very temporary. I am thrilled he picked up on this and put it in such perspective. What a way to keep your cool.”

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

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