Your 4R Response Plan:

Meltdowns & Big Emotions

Follow the 4R Response Method to create your custom plan that will help you to effectively address meltdowns and big emotions.

How to Use This Page

Watch this video to learn how to make the most of this resource

Download Your 4R Response Plan

Click here or on the graphic below to download the 4R Response Plan template that you’ll complete for dealing with schoolwork issues in your home. 

Watch the videos below for ideas about what to consider at each step. You’ll also see a summary of my suggestions below the video. 

Questions? Come to the 4R Response Method Practice Sessions or fill out this form to ask questions! (I’ll answer forms in the live practice session and email the recording to you.)


REDUCE YOUR YUCK Around Big Emotions

Managing meltdowns and big emotions can be tiring. But it is even MORE exhausting when we view big emotions as something to avoid, or as a threat.

Here are some examples of how you can reduce your Yuck by reducing the threat.

The behavior is not a threat because

  • children do feel feelings, often very strongly, and they don’t have great coping skills
  • we can reduce their Yuck and increase their coping skills… but until then, their behavior makes sense

You can handle it because

  • One action that is in your control is to expect that until they have better coping skills, they won’t respond differently. When you expect the behavior, it’s easier not to get sucked into it.

Instead of believing this behavior is bad and using willpower to address the situation, use your Avatar to think about how you want to handle it! 


Instead of thinking, “I cannot believe my son is getting so upset that he can’t go to his friend’s house!”
Think instead, “No wonder he’s upset. It’s hard for him, and he doesn’t have great skills to handle this.”

Instead of thinking, “I don’t know if she’ll ever be able to handle life.” 
Think instead, “I know this will change once she learns how to cope. Until then, I’ll expect him to handle situations like a child… because she is one.”



Now we’ll build your response when dealing with big emotions

Responding effectively is about managing Yuck, and it is so important to address your Yuck because they are much more likely to calm down when they sense you are regulated. 

First, you want to make sure you have a when-then statement to address your own Yuck. Obviously this statement is personal to you.

When creating a when-then statement for responding to your child, you might want to

  • see them by truly getting into their shoes and caring about their point of view. (This does NOT immediately snap them out of it!)
  • teach them by suggesting a strategy to calm down. (But honestly, by the time a child has a big reaction, they’re too deep in Yuck to want to listen to you.)

If they’re too deep in Yuck, neither of these strategies will work… and you might need to get firm so that they travel the Yuck Curve and naturally release all of the emotions. 

Once they have traveled the Yuck Curve and released all of the Yuck, their emotions will naturally lessen. (This will take longer if you get sucked into their Yuck!)



– Example: When-Then Statements related to big emotions

– Script: When your child gets more upset when you try to calm them down

– Script: When your child melts down when they lose


Identify Big Emotions ROADBLOCKS

Let’s identify WHY your child isn’t able to have more flexible, positive responses.

Remember that roadblocks are usually related to your Expectations, their missing Skills, or their Yuck.

How our expectations are roadblocks

  • We expect children to have more mature reactions but they haven’t been able to do that in the past
  • After a while, when children still don’t respond the way we want them to, we deliver our boundaries from a place of Yuck

Some skills they are missing are roadblocks:

  • The ability to cope effectively with feelings of frustration, disappointment, etc.
  • Other missing skills (difficulty with transitions, difficulty with flexible thinking, etc.) may have lead to the frustration, disappointment, and other Yuck to begin with

Yuck that may be roadblocks:

  • Being hungry or tired
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling like we don’t understand them or why they’re having the reaction that they are

Remember to choose ONE roadblock that you have the desire and energy to tackle now. You can come back to the others later!

Build Your ROUTINES to Improve Children's Resilience

Now we’ll identify proactive ROUTINE (that you can take action on!) that will start to reduce the intensity and frequency of your child’s big reactions

Consider these routines to address the roadblock you choose:

Expectations-based Routines

Skill-based Routines

  • ROADBLOCK: They haven’t mastered learned to handle Yuck maturely
    ROUTINE: Teach them to cope with Yuck more effectively. (This one takes a while for them to master!)  

Yuck-based Routines


Sample Completed 4R Response Plans for Big Emotions

Want some examples? Check out this completed 4R Response Method Plan:

When a child gets upset when things don’t go their way

Extra Resources


Past Questions from the Facebook group

Want to see what other parents have already asked about big emotions and reactions? I’ve linked to some past questions and answers below.

Child gets sassy when parent tries to help

Child has power struggles with Mom

Staying calm with a child’s big emotions

Meltdowns due to perfectionism

Child lashes out physically

Handling homework Yuck