Tantrums vs Meltdowns

by Yenny Linares – Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant at Always Keep Progressing

What is the difference between a “tantrum” and a “meltdown”? This is a frequently asked question by many parents that come to Always Keep Progressing speech and occupational therapy clinic. Let’s look at the differences:

A tantrum is normally a child’s response to being told “no” for something that they want. This behavior typically stops when the child is given that toy/object that they desired. 

A meltdown, on the other hand, normally starts due to sensory overstimulation and in most cases does not stop or subside quickly.

Ways to approach a tantrum

  • Be firm with your statements. For example, if the tantrum was caused by your child wanting to eat candy instead of his dinner during meal time, stand your ground. You can use phrases such as: “We cannot have candy for dinner.” Follow through with your decision, otherwise your child’s tantrum could worsen the next time he/she wants something. 
  • Be descriptive: “I can see you really want to have those sour patch kids right now but it’s dinner time, after dinner you can have some.”
  • Make it fun so your child feels like you understand what he/she is saying: “Wouldn’t it be fun if we could have candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? What type of candy would you like to have more of?”

Ways to approach a meltdown

  • During a meltdown, just be present! Sometimes, this means just sitting nearby and waiting for the meltdown to pass. 
  • Always remain calm, and remember that they are already having a hard time processing sensory information, so shouting will only cause more distress. 

Sometimes, these meltdowns can be avoided simply by observing. Keep an eye out for signs of distress, which can help stop these meltdowns before they happen. Simply giving him/her a sensory break, a snack or a few minutes outdoors can go a long way. Only YOU know your child best and know their triggers and discomforts. Making sure you give them those little breaks throughout the day can make a world of a difference.

Therapy for Kids with Special Needs in Miami

At Always Keep Progressing Miami, our trained bilingual speech and occupational therapists provide services specifically tailored to each individual child to help grow their independence and fine-tune their speaking and occupational skills. If you are concerned with your child’s development, an SLP or OT can help answer any of your questions! 

Contact us for an evaluation if you are interested in our services!

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Cover Image by Lee Murry from Pixabay
Mother and Daughter Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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