Know the difference and how to stop either in its tracks.

Crying, screaming and yelling occur during both, yet a tantrum and meltdown are not the same thing. Crying toddler

“Both tantrums and meltdowns are used as a strategy to communicate something,” says Kasey Davis, PsyD, ABPP, a psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “It’s important to understand what is motivating your child’s behavior to discern the difference.”


Tantrums occur when a child is attempting to communicate he wants something. They are motivated by achieving a certain goal and often stop if a child gets what he wants.

How to handle:

  • Keep a calm demeanor.
  • Maintain the limit you set. Don’t cave when your child starts a tantrum.
  • Intentionally ignore the disruptive behavior.
  • Offer praise for good behavior when your child calms down.

“Consistency is key,” Davis says. “As a parent, give a similar response across all environments, whether at home 
or in public.”


Meltdowns occur when a child is overwhelmed and usually stop when the child is in a calmer environment. Meltdowns often arise when your child experiences sensory overload.

How to handle:

  • Find an escape and decrease the amount of noise 
  • or stimulation your child is getting.
  • Model calming strategies for her, such as deep breathing or quiet singing.
  • Hug her close.

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