The Best Ways to Prevent Meltdowns (at Every Age!)

Children are precarious little creatures. Any number of things could set them off, without warning, at any time during the day. As parents, we must find ways to avert and quell these kiddos at every turn. Here are 15 super-handy tricks (by age group) for preventing meltdowns and tantrums and tips to handle them when they do (inevitably) occur.

photo: Janelle Connor 

Videos From Tinybeans


When they drop their snack/treat. 
Your kid is nearing the end of a sweet treat and grinning from ear to ear. Just as she takes her last bite, it falls through her wobbly little fingers and plops on the ground. Your best bet is to narrate about what happened because younger toddlers don’t often have the language to express their frustration. And, be sure to keep a secret stash of snacks on hand and offer them something else to make up for the loss.

When they are asked to share a toy.
Toddlers are hard-wired to do everything but share. To avoid these code red meltdowns, ask your kiddo to choose a toy he would like to share. This empowers children and allows them to exert a little control. If that doesn’t work, set an alarm for a designated amount of time, so they learn that once it goes off, they’re expected to give their friend a turn.

When they are totally over being in the car seat.
Driving and rear-facing toddlers just don’t mix. Even a daily commute can cause an all-out tizzy. If their favorite playlist just isn’t cutting it, dig into an emergency survival kit with novel toys and activities to distract them from the ride, and keep them entertained. If you’re one stoplight away from having a meltdown of your own, as an absolute last resort, consider passing off your phone to let your toddler watch family videos or FaceTime with a relative for the last few minutes of the drive.

When you’re eating at a restaurant.
With wiggly kids, it’s ideal to keep them out of the highchair/booster seat until the food arrives, so grab your little one by the hand and explore the space together. Also, put in your kid’s meal order when you order appetizers and their dessert order in with your meal. That way you’ll have enough time to enjoy your food, and keep your kids eating and entertained all meal long. What kid continues a tantrum over a bowl of their favorite ice cream?

When the lovey goes missing.
All is well in the world until the moment your kid can’t find the lovey. Have a backup or maybe even two stored away (one in the car and one at home) so that if your child misplaces or leaves her lovey behind, you’ll have another one readily available.

Photo: Aikawa Ke via Flickr 


When she doesn’t want to go back to school on Monday.
The fury of an overtired preschooler who drank one too many juice boxes over the weekend is real. Avoid a meltdown by loosening the reigns and allowing a little more leeway than usual. Is your child still at hot mess after easing up? Take things extra slow and make sure her teacher knows your kid is just not herself today.

If you try to make him take off his PJs or superhero/cowboy/ninja costume.
Kids have a thing for wearing their pajamas & costumes to school—so let them. Unless a strict dress code is enforced, allow your child to go to school in the outfit of his or her choosing. There are only so many battles we are going to win, and this is one that parents almost always lose.

When they haven’t had their afternoon snack.
Do your kids crash hard into the afternoon wall and drip down into a puddle of tears? They could be out of fuel and hungry (read: hangry). Preschoolers are often too busy playing to sit for a full meal. Renowned Pediatrician Dr. Sears suggests keeping a nibble tray for kids to graze on throughout the day. Use a muffin tin, or a compartmentalized dish and fill each section with bite-size portions of colorful and nutritious foods and dips.

On the family trip.
Have a plan in place, and consider when you’ll introduce an activity/toy/book (our suggestion is every hour and it doesn’t hurt to wrap it like a present). But don’t give them anything too quickly, as some kids are so smitten with the idea of being on a plane that they aren’t even interested in anything else until that novelty wears off. Once it does, combat boredom and restlessness with activities like coloring books, a small piece of playdough, or these awesome in-flight ideas. When all else fails and it probably will, break out the tablet and let them pick a movie. Just accept that anything goes!

During potty training. 
You’re in the throes of potty training, and your kid has had enough, so before things go awry, try these hacks. And don’t forget to have a little fun and play games while you’re at it (I Spy is a great pick!) while waiting for mother nature to do her thing. 

During the nighttime routine.
Kids who hate brushing their teeth will dig this toothbrush that lights up for two minutes while they practice good oral hygiene. It’ll give them something cool to look at and distract from the brushing. Still squirming and screaming? Trade off. Allow your kid to have a turn first, sans toothpaste, and then you finish up with the good stuff.

photo: Michael LaMartin via Flickr 

Grade School Kids 

When a new school subject becomes a challenge. 
Encourage your kids to try yoga before they fizzle out. According to Donna Delshad, owner of Shorty Yoga in Los Angeles: “Research has shown that a regular yoga practice can improve academic performance, as well as increase self-confidence. But in the midst of a meltdown, even adopting a simple breathing technique can help calm the body and mind. Have your child take a deep breath in through the nose, hold it for a count of 3 or 5, and let it out through the mouth—it helps to liken the exhale to blowing out birthday candles or imitating a lion’s roar.

When after-school activities take their toll. 
Are your kids feeling overscheduled and thus falling apart at the seams? Now that the school year is in full swing, it’s time to reevaluate activities and prioritize them. If something that seemed like a good idea, in the beginning, is no longer the right/good fit, scrap it. Here’s why it’s okay to let kids quit.

When you spend too much time with the younger siblings.
Older siblings sometimes feel like they’re not getting enough attention and will act out and meltdown. Check in with your children and allow them to vent openly and express their feelings using verbal or written words. Then carve out special one on one time and do activities like making dinner, or going on a walk or bike ride together.

When you run errands after school. 
There’s nothing quite like an impatient grade-schooler at the supermarket at the end of a long day. Make sure your kid is well fed before shopping and whenever possible commit to using self-checkout. You can let them do all the scanning, button pressing and bagging themselves.

—Janelle Connor



3 Strategies I Use to Avoid Meltdowns during the Witching Hour

10 Secrets to Dealing with Tantrums

Study Finds Early Language Skills Can Mean Less Toddler Tantrums

30 Incredibly Easy Ways to Keep Kids Busy After School


Parenting news, advice, and inspo… right in your inbox.

By signing up to Tinybeans newsletters you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy