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My Best Tip for Reducing Toddler Meltdowns

I am sharing with you the one tip to reduce toddler meltdowns.

It is scientifically proven to work 90% of the time. OK, that is false, but it really *does* seem to work for our son most of the time and has made our lives much easier by reducing the toddler drama over many every-day things!

tip to reduce toddler meltdowns graphic

As I am writing this, my son is almost two and a half years old, which means we've been in the "terrible twos" for a whole year now. (No, I didn't do the math wrong.) Actually, here is a good article about the terrible twos and how it might not be the best term to use to describe our toddlers:

We call them ‘terrible twos’ (and worse), but toddlers are just learning how to be people

Two year olds are not really terrible people. They just have a lot of needs and very little control of their lives, which leads to tantrums and meltdowns.

Tantrum vs meltdown

Dayna from Lemon Lime Adventures sums it up nicely in her blog post going into the detail about toddler tantrums vs meltdowns:

"A tantrum includes manipulation, knowing what they are doing and a choice. A meltdown includes being overwhelmed, anxious feelings, and system breakdowns."

Toddler tantrums and meltdowns are pretty much unavoidable. No matter how much parenting advice you read or listen to, being a toddler is hard and dealing with a toddler is even harder, at times. Meltdowns will happen. Tantrums will happen.

Parenting goals

When our son was born, my husband and I often mentioned that we would love our son to become a flexible, easy-going human being because life is much easier that way. Of course, this is in addition to the usual wishes for our son to be healthy, kind, smart, caring, compassionate, funny, etc., etc.

I remember one time we watched one of our friends frantically search for her son's favorite stuffed animal at night, freaking out about him not having it even though he had a million other toys in the house. We looked at each other and vowed to never be those parents. (I also thought I would never feed my child French fries and here I have a blog post about why you SHOULD feed your picky toddler French fries, so I also learned not to judge other parents since then.)

As our son grew into an active toddler with lots of opinions and demands, we kept coming back to our wish for him to be easy-going and flexible. We wanted to reduce our son's stress by reducing the number of meltdowns he has.

And I found one trick that seems to consistently work with my son to reduce toddler meltdowns:

Switch things up to reduce toddler meltdowns

That's it. That's my one trick.

Here's what I mean: 

Never get your child used to any one thing.

Now, I am NOT saying don't have a routine. Routines are definitely helpful for toddlers who already feel like they have zero control over their lives. But when it comes to stuff, I try not to get my son too used to one thing.

Think about it.

Has your child ever refused to sleep because they didn't have their blankie?

Couldn't calm down because you gave them the wrong color pacifier?

Or had a meltdown in the morning because you put on the WRONG SHIRT?

Didn't eat because they are used to the red spoon but you only brought the blue spoon with you? Oh, the horror!

Switching to a new pair of shoes when they outgrew their old pair?? Ooof. 

Replacing an old toothbrush and they didn't have the same one at the store? Disaster.

If they were not used to their one thing from the start, they wouldn't care what kind of stuffed animal or blankie they are going to sleep with. They would be excited for any spoon. They would put on any shirt and excitedly go show daddy their blue shirt (or red shirt, or green shirt, or whatever color you grab that day while you're trying to get everyone out the door on time without losing your mind).

But of course, you need to work on this from the beginning, you can't just switch things up for a toddler when he or she is already used to something. 

This can be hard to do. As parents, we want our kids to have something they are attached to that can make them feel better. We think it's so cute how a two year old already has a favorite shirt. We love that our kid finally mastered how to put on that one pair of shoes so we just go with those shoes every day.

But instead of getting kids used to specific things, we can use fun little routines to bring them comfort and consistency. As they grow up, they won't remember what color toothbrush they had when they were two, but they will remember the way you made everything fun for them and how you had a special song *JUST* for them to brush their teeth.

Related post:  What I say to my toddler to get him to fall asleep on his own

Ideas for easy toddler routines:

  • Every time we put on our shoes, we make sure they "work" by having our son jump up and down
  • As soon as we dress our son, we tell him how handsome he looks and he proudly looks in the mirror, we don't give him a change to complain about the "wrong shirt"
  • We sing a song while we brush our son's teeth
  • We say goodnight to all our toys and pets before bedtime instead of using a blankie for comfort at night

Here are a few ways we switch things up to avoid toddler tantrums:

  • As I mentioned above, we try to rotate through different toothbrushes, shoes, clothes, utensils, and sippy cups when we can
  • I try to never serve the same food too many times in a row (it's one of my picky eating rules). I don't want our son getting used to one brand of nuggets, one shape of French fries, or one flavor of vegetable soup
  • We give him different flavor juice (not every day, juice is a special treat)
  • We buy different flavor (and more importantly, color) pouches and baby food (this is when I don't make my own high-calorie baby food)
  • We use different plates for meals 
  • We play different music around the house (this is also for our sanity because I can only handle so much of Wheels on the Bus)
  • We sometimes go in the other car

Of course, these approaches will not work for everyone. There are kids with special needs who need a little more consistency in their lives. There are parents who just don't have time to do these extra little things and just need their kid to hug a blanket and go to sleep quickly that night because they still have so much work to do.

But don't you think this is worth trying? Is there anything you can think of in your child's day where you can apply this approach and see if it helps? 

Let me know if you think this might work, or if you have any other tips for reducing toddler meltdowns. I'd love to hear from you!


And please share this on Facebook and pin it to Pinterest if you think it might be helpful to other parents:

tip to reduce toddler meltdowns graphic


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Tuesday 28th of November 2023

Our sweet little toddlers with so many big feelings. I have had to do a lot of work to reframe my mindset when tantrums and meltdowns happen. My pediatrician told me something I will never forget. "Focus more on who your child is than what your child does. Remember, you're growing a person, not fixing a problem." Loved that!

Andre Fontanella

Friday 24th of January 2020

Very insightful! I will have to try to implement this when my little one enters the toddler stage

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