Is Your Toddler Having a Tantrum or Suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder?
Do you have a child who seems to act out all the time? Perhaps you chalked it up to a temper tantrum, common behavior for toddlers. Has their behavior has become not only disruptive and embarrassing but potentially harmful and frequent? Though this could very well be nothing more than your tiny tot trying to find their voice and express their emotions, it is also a real possibility that they’re suffering from something else.
Tantrums and emotional meltdowns as a result of sensory processing disorder or lack of self-control may appear to be the same, however, they are very different from each other. Having a clear understanding of these differences can help you learn how to parent in a manner in which supports your child’s growth and development.
What’s a Tantrum?
A tantrum is an emotional outburst that children display when trying to communicate their needs or wants. You might notice this occur if you’re paying attention to your phone and your kid wants your attention, or when they can’t have a treat or play with a toy. A tantrum can manifest through screaming, kicking, crying, and lashing out. They may not be able to fully express themselves in these scenarios and may have a valid reason for trying to communicate with you, however, a toddler who is catching tantrums is on some level able to control their emotions and behavior. You can tell because when provided with what they want, they’re able to quickly stop their negative behavior.
What’s a Meltdown?
Meltdowns are emotional outbursts as a result of feeling overwhelmed. For children suffering from a sensory processing disorder, their meltdowns essentially mean that there’s too much information to be processed. They might start screaming in a crowded grocery store because of all the commotion and bright lights. They may kick and yell to take off their clothes if the seams are causing irritation. In these circumstances, they’re unable to control their responses to feeling overwhelmed. Unlike a tantrum that is often resolved by getting a response, a meltdown can continue to occur even after giving the child what they want or removing them from an environment they’re overly sensitive to.
How to Deal with Tantrums and Meltdowns
Now having a clear understanding of the differences between a tantrum and a meltdown, you can make more effective decisions as a parent. How can you prevent or minimize the likelihood of them occurring? If they do occur, what should your response be? Below are some answers:
Tantrums – To deal with a child who’s catching a tantrum, it is imperative that you don’t give in to what they’re asking for. This reinforces their behavior and makes it harder to stop the next time. Instead, acknowledge their feelings, express to them a better way to communicate with you, and then after they’ve corrected their behavior if you want you can provide them with whatever it is they’re after.
Meltdowns – If your child suffers from meltdowns due to sensory processing disorder the best thing you can do is either remove the triggers or remove them from environments that overstimulate the senses. If they cry every time they have to get dressed you would seamless sensitivity products to soothe their frustrations. If you’re in a crowded space, try to get somewhere you can be alone and help your child to calm down and refocus.
Tantrums are negative displays of emotion to get what they want or need. Meltdowns are often uncontrollable emotional responses to overly stimulating environments or circumstances. Knowing the difference between the two is imperative to your child’s growth and development. It also helps you to understand them in a way that helps you to be a more effective parent. If your child continues to have tantrums and meltdowns, you may want to check with their pediatrician to ensure they don’t have any other developmental issues that could be causing the behavior.