Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

A podcast for conscious parents who drop the f-bomb. A lot.

We are the overthinkers, the dreamers, and the doers. We are parenting in a radically different way than those before us. But our divine vision gets blurry can be such a pain in the ass. Let's work from the inside out, in a whole brain, whole body way to mitigate the crappy behavior. Not just with our kids but with ourselves. So you can be the parent you envision.

Hosted by Jamie Glowacki, Author of "Oh Crap! Potty Training" and the soon to be released title, "Oh Crap! I Have a Toddler: Tackling These Crazy Awesome Years―No Time-outs Needed"

Sep 28, 2021

After my recent Instagram post on the arc of a tantrum received such an overwhelming response, I decided to devote an entire podcast to dissecting all things tantrums, meltdowns, and big feelings. Tantrums are the most intense and send your child into an altered state where you’ll actually wonder if you’ve encountered the devil, whereas meltdowns will make you feel more sad for your poor little one who’s just tired and overwhelmed. Big feelings are a momentary freakout that end just as quickly as they came on. All three can meld and morph into each other, and today I’ll look at what’s normal, what’s not, why tantrums happen, and what we can do about them.

Tantrums typically begin developmentally around the 16-month to 3-year mark, and coincide with explosive brain growth that happens during that time. At this age, kids do not yet have the language skills needed to express their thoughts, and tantrums could be caused by something as simple as needing to poop. In today’s episode, I clarify that a few tantrums a week is developmentally appropriate, and explain what to watch out for to determine whether your child’s tantrums are cause for concern (whether they act aggressively, where they are tantruming and with whom, how long they last). I discuss my Go To Your Room strategy to help your child self-regulate while having big feelings, how to fix meltdowns by addressing the root of the problem, and the window of opportunity to distract your child at the beginning of a tantrum. I review the entire arc of a tantrum, what you can do to handle them at each stage, and the importance of letting a tantrum cycle run its course. 

Thank you for your patronage, and please visit the links below for more information on my potty training and parenting resources!


The Finer Details of This Episode:

  • The difference between tantrums, meltdowns, and big feelings
  • Tantrums have to do with intensity and presence - tantrums are usually longer than big feelings or meltdowns, and it will seem like your child is in an altered state
  • Meltdowns have to do more with something out of your child’s control that’s affecting them (hungry, tired, sick, overstimulated)
  • With a meltdown, you’ll feel more sad for how overwhelmed your child feels, whereas with a tantrum, you’ll wonder if you’ve encountered the devil
  • Big feelings are different from big reactions - it’s a knee jerk reaction where your kid’s wires got crossed and they had a momentary freakout
  • Big feelings tend to happen fast and end just as quickly
  • Tantrums, meltdowns, and big feelings can meld and morph into each other
  • What’s normal and what can we do about tantrums?
  • Oftentimes, tantrums can be caused because of digestive issues or allergies, so please do not jump to conclusions that it is a behavioral issue
  • Most behavioral therapists agree that tantrums are a demand for attention, a demand for something tangible, or an escape from a demand (putting on shoes, leaving the house)
  • If the tantrum is not explainable, that could be edging into problem behavior
  • Tantrums start developmentally around the 16-month to 3-year mark and it coincides with explosive brain development
  • MRIs from newborn to five years old confirm the rapid brain development during this period
  • A lot of times tantrums come on simply because the child’s brain circuitry gets jammed
  • Language skills are also underdeveloped at that time and they do not have the words to express their thoughts or needs
  • Tantrums after 3.5 years are concerning - they should not be happening regularly beyond ages 4 or 5
  • Frequency of tantrums will help you determine whether it’s normal behavior, as a few per week are developmentally appropriate
  • Be cautious of brushing off behavior that’s out of the norm, as you child could really be suffering
  • Keeping you and your child safe during a tantrum, and the difference between flailing and being purposefully aggressive
  • Another marker to look for is whether your child is only tantruming with you versus at daycare, in public, at the playground - across the board
  • If they’re having tantrums only with you, that means they feel safe with you and you’re actually a very good parent
  • Average tantrum should only last between 6 to 12 minutes
  • Role of food allergies and tracking whether certain foods trigger problem behaviors
  • Huffington Post article How To Measure Whether Your Child’s Tantrums Are Normal
  • Using the Go To Your Room strategy for big feelings and reactions so child can self-regulate on their own
  • If your child is having a meltdown, you fix it - if they’re hungry, feed them; if they’re tired, adjust their sleep schedule
  • Be cautious of overstimulation and plan your outings accordingly
  • Keep in mind that everyone is allowed to have a shitty day, even kids
  • In the arc of a tantrum, about a quarter of the way through, there is a window of opportunity where you can distract the child
  • At the peak of tantrum is an opportunity to hold space - hear them, be present with inaction
  • A big mistake parents make is trying to end the tantrum too early or interrupt it
  • Think of a tantrum as a cycle that needs to complete itself 
  • At the end, you want to hold your child tight and restore connection - do not process the tantrum
  • If you are concerned about your kid’s tantrum behavior, consult a parenting expert like myself or your pediatrician



“Tantrums have to do with intensity and presence. So a tantrum, once it gets going, your child is gone. They’ve left the planet. They’re no longer in the room with you… They’re in an altered state. The intensity is going to be really strong. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

“Meltdowns have to do more with something out of your child’s control that’s affecting them. So largely hungry, tired, sick, or overstimulated. A lot of times, too, I feel like a meltdown is when our expectations are off and we expect too much from the child, and they just can’t even.”

“During a tantrum, you might actually feel like you’re meeting the devil.”

“Big feelings are different from big reactions. And big reactions, yes, your child is having a big feeling. But it’s a knee jerk reaction and their wires got crossed, their skin is inside out, and they just had this momentary freakout. And that can be about anything.”

“All of these can meld and morph into each other. A big feeling, a big reaction can lead to a tantrum. Likewise, meltdowns can turn into a tantrum as well.”

“Oftentimes, tantrums can happen literally because the child has to poop!”

“When we look at what’s normal or not - is it explainable? And if it is, let’s do something about it. Because unexplained tantrums kind of edge into not normal.”

“I was privy to MRIs of brains in kids every day from newborn to five years old, and if you saw the brain development, you would freak out. It’s so rapid, it’s so crazy. It just explains so much of why our kids are such whack jobs at this age, because it is this rapid brain development.”

“Definitely at 4 and 5, your child may occasionally have a tantrum, of course. They’re still little. They’re still learning… But you should not see 4 and 5 [year-olds] having tantrums regularly.

“A few a week are developmentally appropriate.”

“Ten tantrums a day is too much.”

“The biggest problem with brushing off out-of-the-norm behavior is that we’re not getting to the root of the problem, and your child really could be suffering.”

“If your child has no wherewithal of sort of ‘maintaining’ good behavior with strangers or at school, then something could be wrong.”

“If you have half-hour tantrums, that is of concern. Also, if your child has a really hard time coming out of a tantrum.”

“Big feelings and reactions - that is where I feel very strongly about my Go To Your Room strategy… It’s okay to have a big reaction. It’s not okay to have a kid screaming in your face.”

“You want the child to self-regulate, and that often has to happen on its own.”

“How we handle meltdowns is you fix it!”

“Overstimulated - be really cautious with your kid who’s under 4. I really feel strongly that we should be keeping them away from overstimulation.”

“A meltdown can happen because our expectations are too high.”

“The arc of the tantrum starts, it's just like a curve. And so about a quarter of the way up, you do have this window of opportunity in which you may distract the tantrum. Distract the tantrum does not mean bribe your child.”

“Once you've determined that they're gone, that's what I call it. They're gone. Just, don't try to logic. Don't try to distract them. Don't even look them in the eye.”

“Think of it as a whole cycle, and they just have to get it out, and it has to complete itself.”

“That's the arc of the tantrum. And I think that the biggest damage people do is trying to interrupt it or trying to stop it.”



Jamie’s Homepage -


Oh Crap! Potty Training –


Oh Crap! I Have A Toddler -!-I-Have-a-Toddler/Jamie-Glowacki/Oh-Crap-Parenting/9781982109738


Jamie’s Patreon Page: 


How To Measure Whether Your Child’s Tantrums Are Normal