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Tantrum or Overstimulation?

As a parent, it can be difficult to know how to best help your child when they’re experiencing a meltdown. Is it a tantrum? Is it overstimulation? And what’s the difference between the two, anyway?

Both tantrums and overstimulation can lead to a loss of behavioral control, but they have different causes.

Overstimulation happens when there is too much external stimulus 🧩 for someone to process.

A classic tantrum is more common in children 🧒. In neurotypical children, these tend to decrease in frequency and intensity as the child grows older. For a toddler 👶, tantrums can be considered normal, and even as gauges for developing strength of character.

✏ With a tantrum, the provocation usually occurs immediately before the outburst. The child may be seeking attention or trying to get something they want. A tantrum is a common occurrence in children, characterized by crying, yelling, and/or physical aggression.

✏ With overstimulation, there is no specific provocation, but rather a build-up of stimuli that lead to the meltdown. The child may not be able to verbalize what is wrong or may not even be aware that they are overwhelmed. There are four main types of overstimulation: visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile.

Tantrums and overstimulation can both be difficult behaviors to deal with—but knowing the difference between them is key to being able to properly support your child.

If you think your child might be experiencing a tantrum or overstimulation, take note of any triggers that might be present as well as any behaviors you observe. This will help you better understand what’s going on and how best to help your child at that moment. If this helped you better understand, share this with a mom or dad friend that could use the information.

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