“Would You Rather?” Questions May Help During Meltdowns

“Would you rather?” questions are fun with children just as fun. They are questions like, “Would you rather live on a castle or a pirate ship?” I use them at dinner and before bedtime. I found they can also help with meltdowns.

Close to 3 years, 10 months is Preschool Milestone 13 which I called “Tests and Compares Complex Theories and Systems.” Children start to compare themes: who is faster, what rocket flies higher, etc. Their favorite “theme” is themselves: are they the fastest and best compared to others? If anything suggests they aren’t, prepare, because they will not like finding this out. You may be dealing with a lot of whining or aggression, depending on the type of emotional release your child prefers.

The “Would you rather?” question can help in these situations. I use this tool of distraction but in a more involved way in the preschool years. In the early 3s, around 3 years, 3 months, which is Preschool Milestone 4, if my child is having a meltdown or is scared, I find if I start telling them their favorite story, they calm down and become so engrossed in the story, they forget what they were scared of or defiant about.

I often use this “tell a story” trick but one time it didn’t work. My daughter, who was 3 years, 10 months, had just got done being upset because she wasn’t the first to get to the van. She was fighting me to be buckled in the car seat. She was playing a game where she kept trying to close the door instead of letting me in to buckle her. I at first tried calm, quick action to resolve this, but when she was wildly upset about what I was doing, I thought a new tool would probably be needed. I tried telling her favorite story but it didn’t work. I then asked a “Would you rather” question. In this case, it was “Would you rather be on the swing or slide?” as we were just leaving the playground. She calmed down instantly and became engrossed in the question. Lost in her thoughts, she said, “ummmm, both.” While she was calm, I buckled her and all was happy afterwards.

Car seat fights, yo.


I think this may work so well at 3 years, 10 months because of how much they like to compare things, although it may work at many other ages (one mom told me she was going to try it on her 11 year old). Some other “Would you rather?” questions might be, “Would you rather be able to fly or swim underwater without having to breathe?” “Would you rather have a lake in your backyard or a forest?” “Would you rather be a cheetah or a dolphin?”

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

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