Looking for Regional Information?

Keeping Melt Downs at Bay with Your Preschooler

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/24/2006 | Parenting
Ask anyone that lives with a preschooler and they will tell you that kids melt down. Children between the ages of three and five have the unique ability to be happy and jovial one minute and on the floor screaming the next. For parents this can be difficult to deal with.

It is often tempting to use phrases like 'if you don't stop crying I'll give you something to cry about' or 'you are old enough to know better' and how about this one 'you're smarter than that'. Each of these seemingly innocuous phrases does not leave the child any room to deal with their emotions or to recover from the temper tantrum. So what is a parent to do?

Parents can choose the words they use more carefully. By employing a slightly different tact your preschooler will be able to cope with more situations and to recover from temper tantrums. Below is an example of the right and wrong way to deal with your preschooler in a real life situation.


Marie is walking out of the movie with Mom and Dad after just seeing her favorite cartoon movie on the big screen. Mom announces that the family is going to stop at the grocery store on the way home. Marie immediately begins to cry and scream about her doll at home and that she is not going to the store. Here is the right and wrong ways to deal with Marie.

The Wrong Way

Mom says: We have to go the store. There is nothing to eat in the house.
Marie says: No my baby is at home I want my baby.
Mom says: We have to go; you can get your baby when you get home.
Marie: Screams and begins to cry uncontrollably.
Mom says: Get in the car we are going to the store whether you like it or not.

This is the wrong way because it leaves both Mom and Marie feeling helpless and frustrated. Both Mom and Marie are angry and have spoiled the enjoyable time they were having.

The Right Way

Mom says: We have to go to the store. There is nothing to eat in the house.
Marie says: No my baby is at home I want my baby.
Mom says: It's hard to leave your baby at home while you are shopping.
Marie: Screams and begins to cry uncontrollably.
Mom says: Marie come and sit with me for a moment. Mom allows Marie to snuggle by Mom and cry for a moment. When Marie begins to slow down crying...
Mom says: Your baby is at home and we need to buy groceries. Then Mom gives Marie time to think about the situation.
Marie says: Can I ride in the cart?
Mom says: Yes
Marie says: Next time we go to the movie and the store we need to bring my baby.
Mom says: Yes, we will bring your baby.

In this example both Mom and Marie are ready to grocery shop and feeling good about themselves. By Mom giving Marie time to deal with her emotions without the pressure of Mom forcing Marie to comply Marie is able to come up with a solution on her own.

Notice how Mom has carefully worded her responses so that she is not making the choice Marie is. When Marie was able to feel that she was listened to and understood she was able to come up with a conclusion on her own.