Navigating Tantrums and Meltdowns: What is the Difference?

Navigating Tantrums and Meltdowns: What is the Difference?


As children grow and develop, they often experience strong emotions that they struggle to control. In these moments, it’s not uncommon for a child to have a “tantrum” or “meltdown”. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to two different types of behaviour.

Tantrums and meltdowns are both responses to overwhelming emotions, but they differ in how they are expressed and what triggers them. Understanding these differences can help parents and caregivers respond more effectively and support children in developing better emotional regulation skills.


What is a tantrum?

A tantrum is a behaviour generally defined as emotional outbursts that involve screaming, crying, kicking, hitting, and other forms of physical expression. People typically throw tantrums when they are frustrated, want control over a situation, or want something they cannot have. 


What is a meltdown?

Meltdowns are also characterized by big emotional outbursts that result in kicking, hitting, vocal expressions, and other forms of physical expression. Unlike tantrums, meltdowns are typically a result of being tired, hungry, needing connection, or having sensory overload. 

Meltdowns can often be associated with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); however, all people can have meltdowns. If your child is having a meltdown it does not mean that they may have a neurodevelopmental disorder. 

During a meltdown, a child may become completely overwhelmed and may display a range of behaviours that can be challenging for caregivers to manage. These behaviours may include crying, screaming, hitting, biting, throwing objects, or even self-injury.


What are the key differences between tantrums and meltdowns?

While both tantrums and meltdowns are expressions of intense emotion, there are key differences between them. Some of the key differences include:

  1. Tantrums are often triggered by external events, such as being told “no” or not getting what they want, while meltdowns are usually the result of internal triggers, such as sensory overload, hungry, or being tired.
  2. Children who are having tantrums are often seeking attention or control over a situation, while children experiencing a meltdown are typically unable to control their behaviour.
  3. Tantrums are usually shorter in duration, often lasting only a few minutes, while meltdowns can last much longer and may take hours to resolve.
  4. Tantrums are typically characterized by crying, screaming, and other forms of physical expression, while meltdowns may involve more extreme behaviour such as hitting, biting, or even self-injury.
How to respond to tantrums and meltdowns?

When a child is experiencing a meltdown, it’s important to prioritize their safety and help them regain a sense of calm. This may involve removing them from the situation, providing sensory input such as deep pressure or calming music, simply giving them space and time to calm down independently, or staying with them but doing nothing but being there (this does not work for all people).

During a meltdown, there may be times when you are doing everything in your toolbox to help calm your child, including standing on your head, and it does not help. In times like this, you may need to let your child ride out the meltdown while you make sure they do not hurt themselves or others. 

In both cases, it’s important to remember that every child is different and may respond differently to various strategies. 


If you need more guidance on how to distinguish a tantrum from a meltdown or would like strategies to reduce the number of temper tantrums or meltdowns, feel free to book a free 15-minute conversation with Brenda from Parenting Foundations.

Pacifier: The Real Deal

Pacifier: The Real Deal

A pacifier  (aka soother, dummy, sucky, etc) can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.

The sucking reflex is a very calming for many children. It is a very natural thing. Children come out of the womb with the ability to suck and they love it!! Many of you may even have pictures of your little one sucking while in the womb!

As children age, the soother can become an object that they depend on greatly. I believe this is often when pacifiers become an issue.

What is the big deal about a Pacifier?

The following is a list of the reasons that a soother can become an issue:

  • Children can begin to develop dental issues with prolonged pacifier usage after 2 to 3 years of age.
  • Children that keep the pacifier in their mouth all night may struggle with getting into the deeper stages of sleep.
  • You may find yourself going on a soother hunt several times a night in a dark room!
  • Your child needs your help to put the soother back in their mouth during each wake-up! We all wake every to 60 to 90 minutes.
When should you consider removing the Pacifier?

This is completely up to you; however, there are a few things that would cause me to encourage you to drop the pacifier. The following are my reasons for dropping the pacifier:

  • Your child is not able to go back to sleep with out you inserting the pacifier and they are in a different room than you. Your sleep is definitely affected.
  • Your child is not appearing well rested. This will be evident with their behaviour during the day.
  • Your child’s speech is impacted by the pacifier.
  • Dental issues are beginning to develop.
How can you remove a Pacifier?

There are a number of ways that you can remove a pacifier from your child. The older your child is the harder it can become; however, it is possible and may not be as hard as you think. Here are some common ways to remove the pacifier:

Cold Turkey: 

This may seem to be the harshest method but in reality, it is the easiest. Stop giving the pacifier. At first, your child will protest; however, you can add more comfort to your child during this transition which will help with removing the pacifier.

This is the best method for children under 1 year of age.

Gradual Removal: 

This is when you start reducing when the soother is offered during the day. For example, only offering the pacifier during rides in the vehicle and in bed. After a few weeks of only offering it during designated times, you then cut it out completely. The first few days without the pacifier are trying times but it does get better with time.

This is the method that we used with our son. When he was just over a year, we only offered the soother in the vehicle and while he was in the crib for a nap or bedtime. I would offer a snack in the vehicle when needed and offer comfort objects (ie his lovey) when he needed something other than my comfort to calm him. Then we set aside 4 days where my husband and I could take turns offering him support through the night if he needed it. The first night he requested it a few times at bedtime but we stated “it is all gone” and offered him a hug. at bedtime, it took a few extra minutes to put him to sleep but that was it. He woke once during the night and needed comfort to go back to sleep. Night 2 he asked at bedtime and we stated the same message “it is all gone”. He fell asleep and stayed asleep all night. That was it!

This is the best method for children between 1 to 2 years of age.

Soother Fairy:

This is when your child gathers up all of their soothers and places them in a spot where the soother fairy (aka you) will remove the pacifiers and replace them with an object that your child will enjoy or has been asking for. For younger children, it is a good idea to replace the pacifiers with an object that can be used as a comfort object. After the pacifiers are gone you may have to deal with an upset child during sleep times or periodically throughout the day. The best thing to do is make sure you dispose of the pacifiers so you do not give it back to your child.

This is a method applicable to children over the age of 2 but best for children close to age 3.

Stuff a Bear:

This is when you bring your child to a place that makes stuffed animals and brings along the pacifiers. Your child then stuffs the pacifiers in the bear or whatever stuffed animal your child chooses. Then voila you have Soother Bear! When your child requires support you can remind her to grab her bear and also provide hugs and extra comfort when needed. This can be a quick solution for some children. Some children do get frustrated that they know where the pacifier is but cannot get it.

This is another method that is good for children over the age of 2. This is my preferred method for children that are closer to 2.

Deflating the Pacifier:

There are a couple of ways to do this; however, before proceeding I would like to remind you to proceed with caution with this method. The soother can become a choking hazard as the material gets compromised when you deflate the soother. This is when you poke holes in the soother so your child will no longer be able to suck the soother like she did before. Some children do not care and keep chewing on the soother. Other children will just stop using the soother as they are no longer getting the benefits from the soother.

This method is good for children over 1.

Chopping the Pacifier:

This is when you cut off a little piece of the pacifier. I advise you to proceed cautiously as this can also be a choking hazard. You usually start with the tip and then every few days chop off a bit more until there is nothing left but the plastic handle. Some children will just stop using the pacifier altogether and some will hold onto the plastic handle and suck on the plastic. If this is the case for your child I would then use another method to get rid of the pacifier all together.

This method is good for children over 2.


As with all things related to children and parenting, there is no right or wrong answer to how you should proceed with removing your child’s pacifier. Hopefully, one of the methods in this article will help your child with removing their dependence on the pacifier.

If you have any other questions or need assistance with coming up with a plan to assist your child with becoming pacifier free, please feel free to post a question in the forum area.

Take care and have a lovely day!



Best Laid Plan

Best Laid Plan


​As a parent, there are going to be many times that you have a plan in place, and it bombs!

When plans bomb we will often think it is something we are doing wrong. The fact is that not all plans will work out and not all ways of dealing with a behaviour respond in the same manner.

A great example of plans not working out would be…

(Any idea of where I am going as a Sleep Consultant!)

You guessed it… SLEEP PLANS!!

There have been many times that I have been working with families where we go over the sleep plan and it seems like a great fit. Then when the parents start to implement the plan it does not seem to be working.

We can rip things to pieces and figure out what is wrong with the child or we can adjust the plan to meet the needs of the child and the family. I have way more success with changing plans than changing a child.

So the first plan gets trashed and we make a new plan!

Another great example of a plan that did not go well is when my husband and I are not on the same plan. I wake up thinking I need to accomplish certain things and he wakes up with a completely different idea.

The best way to deal with these issues is to carve out a few minutes and make a plan that suits everyone. When we do this we also include the kids. If they have their own ideas it makes accomplishing things very difficult; however, when they are included in the decision-making process life goes much smoother!

One way to include all family members in your plans is to hold a family meeting.  During the meeting, you can brainstorm and come up with an action plan.


What is the point of a plan?

Having a plan can help you stay on track and keep your goals in mind. It can also help you to anticipate potential issues and be prepared for them.

An action plan can provide structure and guidance for you and your children, and help ensure that everyone is on the same page. It can also help you stay organized and focused on the important tasks at hand.

Ultimately, having an action plan can help make parenting easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved.


Do you always need an action plan? 

The short answer is no, you do not also need a plan. There are going to be many times that you are going to have to go with the flow.


What are the benefits of having an action plan for parenting?

1.  Helps you stay organized

When you have a plan, you can see everything that needs to be done at a glance. This can help you stay organized and ensure that you don’t forget anything important.

2. Helps you stay focused

It’s easy to get distracted as a parent, but an action plan can help you stay focused on your goals. By breaking down your goals into smaller, actionable steps, you can work towards them one at a time and make progress.

3. Helps you see progress

When you have a plan, you can track your progress and see how far you’ve come. This can be a great motivator and help you stay committed to your goals.


What are the steps involved in creating a plan?

1. Identify the issue or objective that you want to address

Some common issues or objectives are as follows: to stop yelling, reduce the intensity of a child’s meltdowns/tantrums, increase healthy food choices, decrease screen time, find activities that interest a child, and so much more.

2. Determine the resources needed to achieve the goal

This is where you brainstorm all the things that will help you to reach your goal.

3. Break down the goal into small achievable steps

If your goal is to reduce the length of your child’s meltdowns, your steps may be:

  • identify the root of most meltdowns (ie frustration, anger, hunger, tired, not getting what they want)
  • brainstorm ways to help your child handle big emotions
  • create a calming space in your home
  • create a calm-down box (fidget toys and other calming things for your child)
  • identify and utilize a self calming strategy for you to use in the moment of the meltdown
  • create a list of empowering and calming statements you can use during the meltdown (“it is okay to be angry”, “I will not let you hurt me or you”, “I am here”…)

4. Stick to the plan

Consistently doing what you planned for a set period of time will increase your chance of success. I will often ask families to stick with a sleep plan for minimum of 4 days before making changes.

5. Review and Assess

After your set period of time, review if the plan is working. If the plan is working then carry on. If the plan is not working this is a great time to make adjustments to the plan.


Over time, you will find that developing an action plan gets easier and easier as you will have found the responses that work best for you and your child.

If you require any assistance with developing an action plan, please feel free to reach out to learn how you can work with me, Brenda from Parenting Foundations.

Remember you may have had the best of intentions but sometimes the best plans get derailed!

Communication through the years

Communication through the years

Children’s communication styles can vary significantly based on their age, developmental level, personality, and individual experiences. Children do communication with you using more than just words or sounds.

Some general characteristics of children’s communication styles at different ages are as follows:

Infants (birth to 2 years): At this age, children communicate primarily through nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, and sounds. They may coo, gurgle, or cry to express their needs and feelings.

Toddlers (2 to 3 years): As toddlers begin to develop language skills, they may use simple words and phrases to communicate. They may also use gestures and facial expressions to convey their thoughts and emotions. Toddlers may have difficulty expressing themselves and may become frustrated when they cannot communicate their needs effectively. It is common for this frustration to come out in the form of a tantrum or meltdown.

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): Preschoolers are starting to use more complex language and may be able to carry on simple conversations. They may also use more sophisticated gestures and facial expressions to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Preschoolers may still have difficulty expressing themselves at times and may use tantrums or other negative behaviors to communicate their frustration.

School-age children (6 to 12 years): As children enter school, they continue to develop their language skills and are able to communicate more effectively. They may be able to express their thoughts and feelings more clearly and may be more adept at using language to persuade or negotiate with others. School-age children may also begin to use more sophisticated nonverbal communication, such as eye contact and body posture, to convey their thoughts and feelings.

It’s important to keep in mind that every child is unique and will develop at their own pace. Some children may develop communication skills faster or slower than others, and it’s important to be patient and supportive as children learn to communicate effectively.

If you have concerns about your child’s communication the first step is to speak with your child’s doctor. If your concerns continue then speak with someone that specializes in child development to see what your next steps could be. Feel free to book a free 15-minute consultation with me, Brenda from Parenting Foundations, to talk about your next steps.

What do you need today??

What do you need today??

Parenting is not an easy gig. There are going to be many days where you feel like you are a rockstar parent and other days where you feel depleted and/or defeated as a parent.

In order for you to be the parent you want to be, it is important that you are able to focus on yourself first. (You can stop laughing now or prevent the eye roll from happening)

It really is true. How can you be the parent you want to be if you are not focusing on the things that you need or want?? It is simply not possible. You will become exhausted and will not know where to turn. 

Yes, I am speaking from experience. 

After returning from an amazing weekend a few weeks ago, I expected that I would be completely excited to be back and want to jump into doing it all. That is the complete opposite of what really happened. 

After retreating for a few minutes, I was able to realize I needed to sit back and take it all in. 

My family thought something was wrong or that I did not want to be there. 

The fact that I did not want to be there was not totally wrong. I did want to be there but I also longed to be able to do things on my schedule and not the schedule dictated by everyone else or the needs of the home. 

I allowed myself to have my feelings and then I gave myself the time to process them. At first, I felt very guilty about my feelings. When I was able to relax and become more at peace with the overwhelmed feeling I was able to be the parent I wanted to be. 

So what do you need??…

Do you need to take 5 minutes to regroup? (This was all I needed)

Do you need to plow through and get stuff done without interruption?

Do you need to tap out with a partner, family member, or friend so you can regroup? (You do not have to do it all!!) 

Do you need to fully engage with your child? Sometimes we need to let the house get dirty or serve a quick and easy (processed) meal so you can play and have fun with your child.

Do you just need a hug? Don’t forget to ask for one! You are worth it! 


In summary, take the time you need so you can be the caregiver you want to be!!