Are Your Child’s Outbursts Tantrums OR Meltdowns: Learn The Difference

child having a tantrum
Sleepy boy sitting in bed and crying. Tired child in bedroom

When your child breaks out into a crazy, uncontrollable cry, feet stomping, ear-piercing screaming fit, parents often are unsure why it’s happening or what to do. To find out why, we first have to know are your child’s outbursts tantrums or meltdowns? Let’s do that now so we can get into the good stuff: what to do when the outbursts occur. Today, I am going to help get you more equipped with some easy tools!

Are Your Child’s Outbursts Tantrums Or Meltdowns? 

In order to answer this, we need to look at two things: Symptoms and Reasons. The symptoms of tantrums and meltdowns look very similar. Actually, they are practically identical.

SYMPTOMS of tantrums and meltdowns include, but aren’t limited to:

  • crying
  • screaming
  • banging head against wall or floor
  • stomping feet
  • unable to be calmed down or reasoned with

REASONS why tantrums and meltdowns occur:

Tantrums occur when your child is unhappy with a current situation. They don’t like the outcome or answer you have given them. They want something different and aren’t happy about not getting their way.


  1. Your child wants to play 5 more minutes at the park after you’ve already given them a 5 minute warning and they begin to throw an “epic tantrum.”
  2. Your child wants doesn’t want to go to bed and pulls out all the stops, negotiations and manipulations to avoid what needs to be done. When they don’t get what they want, the tantrum presents itself.

Meltdowns occur when your child feels overwhelmed, anxious, nervous or just simply pushed too far. Imagine filling a pitcher of water too full – it begins to overflow. This image is your child when the meltdown sets in. They have been pushed too far and they can’t handle the situation for whatever reason.


  1. You drag your toddler around from store to store trying to get all your errands done in a proficient manner. After one store too many your child flips a switch and BAM – the meltdown!
  2. You want your child to try on new school clothes and the pile of clothes sets them off. It was simply too much at once.

Parenting Tools To Help You and Your Child

When tantrums or meltdowns set in, it can be very stressful for you, the parent, and your child. It increases our cortisol levels and puts us into “fight or flight” mode. This jump starts you into survival mode and it makes it difficult to remain calm. There are some simple, effective tools to help you in this situation.

Some parenting tools to help manage tantrums and outbursts are:

  • take deep breaths
  • know that you can’t reason or discuss the situation with your child until they have calmed down
  • give them space
  • if you’re in a public place, it’s okay to pick them up and remove them from the situation. Maybe outside or to the car
  • think before you speak – be sure you don’t say something you can’t promise. For example: “no TV for 1 month!”
  • don’t punish, but use Positive Discipline tools to help keep the behaviour from re-occurring
  • once your child is calm, connect before you direct!
  • do your best to be one step ahead if you know your child may be getting tired or hungry
  • follow through is your key to success in all positive lessons taught

To get to the bottom of your child’s tantrums and/or meltdowns BOOK YOUR CALL and solve your struggles today! In one call you will be on your way to a calmer, more peaceful parenting experience!

For more information go to my Tuesday’s With Tia Videos where I answer your parenting questions each week!



behavior, kids, meltdowns, parenting, parenting tools, positive discipline, tantrums

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