Minimize the Meltdowns: 5 Proactive Strategies To Put in Place With Your Young Child ASAP

Nurturing a tiny human to become a fully functional grown human is so much work, especially since young children are so very emotional and impulsive. The implementation of a few specific proactive strategies can drastically reduce the likelihood of tantrums and other unwanted behaviors — and can be implemented right away for better outcomes tomorrow!

There is no magic answer to make all to make your child stay on their best behavior at all times, but these strategies will help to increase desired behaviors in young children. From the young toddler’s non-verbal kicking and screaming to the 5-year-old’s more in-depth negotiations, these will help to keep you and your child more calm and collected.

Strategy #1 – Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is often neglected, but so easy to implement. It is when you acknowledge the things that your child is doing right instead of what they’re doing wrong. It is, by far, the most effective proactive strategy! Children want to do the right thing, and they want attention from the people they love. Positive reinforcement teaches them what is “right” while also filling their attention bucket. WIN WIN! When acknowledging these behaviors, get specific about what was “good” rather than simply saying “good job.” This increases the likelihood of the child choosing a positive behavior and therefore inadvertently decreases the likelihood that they will choose a negative behavior. For example:

  • “ You did a great job of asking me calmly for more rather than getting upset that your food was all gone.”
  • “You should be so proud of yourself for staying safe at the store today by staying close to me.”

Strategy #2 – Routine

As much as possible, adults should try to make each day feel like it is “on loop.” There should be routines that happen in the same way every day whenever possible. This includes specifics about things like the time the child wakes up, what it looks like to get ready for the day, when they eat breakfast, where in the house they eat breakfast, what they are allowed to do after breakfast, and so on and so forth for the whole day. Knowing what is coming and how to be successful makes children feel confident that they are making good choices and takes away a great deal of space for meltdowns.

Think about how it felt in 2020, during the pandemic — when our reality became unpredictable, suddenly different, and ever-changing. As adults, it was very uncomfortable. Life can feel like that every day for young children if their adults do not have clear routines in place. The first step toward doing this is to create a daily schedule for your child. There are tons of free resources on the Internet for printable schedule templates, like this one.

Even with strong routines in place, sometimes things will change and sometimes things will be different. When possible, adults should let the child know what will change or be different ahead of time. The night before or the morning of the change/difference is usually the best time to let them know. Telling them too far in advance can get dicey, because they don’t have a great sense of time and generally think anything you tell them is going to happen very soon. Telling them too late can create stress because they may not have had enough time to process.

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