How Tantrums Differ From Meltdowns?


As a parent or guardian of a child under the spectrum, tantrums, and meltdowns are common instances to look out for. To many, these two words may be synonymous because they look the same at first glance, but they are actually very different cases. 

Knowing their distinction is vital because it means you get to know how to handle the situation better, especially when things get out of hand.

Their Differences

Despite their external similarities that get people confused, a meltdown and a tantrum have several factors that set them apart from each other.

Meltdowns don't target a specific age demographic. In other words, they may stick around far longer than one's childhood. They are not intentionally triggered. A child or adult who is melting down does not do it for any definite purpose at all. 

It may be caused by various means, such as being overwhelmed by information. sensations, emotions, and experiences. These types of overstimulation can lead to zoning out, shutting down, withdrawal, and uncontrolled movements. 

To know if someone is about to have a meltdown, check if they are in what experts call the "rumbling stage." This is a state in which a person on the spectrum shows minor symptoms that lead to melting down. These include behaviors that indicate discomfort, like tensing muscles and nail-biting.

A tantrum, however, is a different story. It's a child's way of deliberately expressing his or her frustration. That is why it's also referred to as "temper tantrums." It's when they act out. This is a natural reaction of children when they can't get what they won't or can't say what they want to say.

You can say it's their way of blowing off some steam. You should also keep in mind that these are normal occurrences because developing some sense of independence is part of a youngster's growth.

What Do Tantrums Look Like?

When they feel dissatisfied, hungry, or tired, it sparks their frustration. Thus, their thoughts and emotions become disoriented. They may cry, scream, run away, vomit, or get tense. 

Because temper tantrums are linked to aggression, your child may also show disruptive conduct. They may try to break things by kicking, hitting, and throwing them around.

Being forced to do things that make them uncomfortable or losing an object of comfort are often the causes of children turning violent.

Different children have different ways of showing their irritation. But what they will all have in common is chaotic behaviors.

What to Do When My Child is Having a Tantrum?

  • Keep a Calm Head

In any situation in life, staying calm is always a priority in order to make the best decision there is. This is essential, especially in rattling circumstances like a child throwing a tantrum.

  • Make Sure If It's Really a Tantrum

As mentioned, it is important to know the discrepancy between tantrums and meltdowns. That's because each needs to be treated differently. 

Remember: meltdowns happen when someone is taking in more stimulation than he or she can cope up with, while tantrums happen after a child feels discontented about something and gets frustrated.

  • Know Their Reasons

Why is your child acting up? The answer to that question will confirm what case you are currently facing. After verifying that your child is having a tantrum, know the reasoning behind it. Does he want to play with me? Does he want to buy something? 

  • Do Not Submit

When your child is upset because he did not get something he wanted, do not submit easily. Giving them what they want is the fastest solution, but it's not the smartest. On some occasions, you can do that, but not every time.

  • Get Out of The Crowd

In many events, it's the crowded hallways and sidewalks that trigger a child's tantrums. Simply removing the audience can sometimes be the key.

If this is the case, let your child practice coping mechanisms in small groups and parties.

  • Acknowledge Their Feelings

Praise your child's good side. This comforts them and tells them that they are valued. Consequently, they will have fewer reasons to spur up more tantrums.

  • Train Them

Because tantrums are mostly a result of a lack of communication skills and impulse control, equip your child with the proper knowledge. After every tantrum, be creative in giving them opportunities to improve the aspects that they have less control over.


  • Thank for the input, I have a grand daughter who has not been diagnosed, I believe aspergers. Now they tell me aspergers is just on the spectrum

    Melissa haggard
  • Thank for the input, I have a grand daughter who has not been diagnosed, I believe aspergers. Now they tell me aspergers is just on the spectrum

    Melissa haggard
  • Love the information
    Thank you

    Carol Ellis

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