Choices and Meltdowns…


If I give my son choices, he takes all day – and usually has a meltdown, too! What should I do?


So many times, we try to be “gentle” and end up confusing young children with too many choices or too much power. Yes, we need to be gentle but we also need to be firm. If it were my child (I have three boys ages 7, 5 and 3) I would do the following:

  • Give a five-minute warning in a happy tone. “In five minutes, we’ll get you dressed and go _________”.

  • Give a three-minute warning doing the same thing.

  • Then say, “It’s time to get dressed and go _______. Do you want to wear the blue pants or the brown pants?” (I’d only give him this choice if he really has a choice in his clothes.)

  • If he refused:

  • If it’s his thing we’re going to (and I don’t care if we miss it), then I’d tell him, “I’m so sorry you’re not dressing. We won’t be able to go _____.” Then do not
    go…even if he changed his mind.

  • If it’s my thing we’re going to and I don’t want to miss it, then I’d say “Looks like you need some help,” and dress him firmly but lovingly. Then head out the
    door, even if he’s screaming. It’s okay for him to be angry, mad, etc. It’s not okay for him to rule the roost.

Now, having said all this, your child is very young for a lot of choice and empowerment. Many times a young, verbal, potty-trained child can seem older than she really is. He’s advanced, yes, but he’s still developmentally and emotionally a baby (early toddler). I’d limit his choices and just give him some time warnings, and then get dressed. The above thing I outlined, I would do when he’s more like 2 1/2 years old. I understand what you’re going through. My eldest son is very high-needs/intense along with having special needs. He was quite an “interesting” toddler!