Meltdowns or Tantrums are inappropriate behaviors the child engages in to get something the child wants, to escape a benign situation the child doesn’t like (such as being told that play time is over), or both.

Examples include flailing on the floor, crying with or without tears, screaming, throwing objects, and can also include aggression, self-injurious behaviors, and/or bolting. We generally use the label of meltdowns (“tantrums”) when these behaviors occur in a cluster – two or more occurring at the same time. Giving in to what the child wants during a meltdown is a surefire way to make meltdown worse and to occur more often in the future. Parents are first taught how to safely “wait out” a meltdown and how to appropriately redirect the child.

Teaching the child how to appropriately request items/activities the child wants and does not want, and teaching parents how to reinforce this appropriate communication will lessen the child’s need to use meltdown to get wants and needs met. Building functional communication skills and consistency in application of behavioral strategies are key when dealing with meltdown behavior.

The downloadable data sheet below helps you to track the frequency of a specific behavior: 

click to download the PDF data sheet ABC data collection

click to download the PDF data sheet  Behavior frequency data sheet

click to download the PDF glossary Glossary

In addition, the below tips might be useful:

click to download the 10 tips for managing a meltdown PDF  10 Therapist-approved tips for managing a meltdown