Peter is rather particular about his breakfast. Unfortunately, he's not always particular in the same way. He always eats chicken nuggets and then a banana, but sometimes I need to do all the microwaving, sometimes he does it all, sometimes he only does half. Then there are the issues of when to cut it, how long it takes to cool, and whether or not I am supposed to eat with him. If I fail to read his mind on any of these issues, it may result in a meltdown.
And, if I'm not sleep-deprived, I identify with him.
I distinctly remember feeling unreasonably angry or sad as a kid when my breakfast did not go exactly as I wanted it. Too much milk in my cereal. Foam on my orange juice. The list went on. What was worse than being so upset was knowing I was over-reacting and not being able to do anything about it.
So when Peter is gearing up for a tantrum, I know this isn't the time to push rules. On my good days, I hold him and wait until he can pull himself together, then start back at the beginning. I try to fix the situation. Once he has made it through breakfast (and gotten his blood sugar back to a good place), we talk.
(Our mealtime rules are sit nicely, talk politely, and try what is served. If he doesn't want to obey those rules, he is free to leave the table and wait until the next time food is served, which is usually 2-3 hours. I usually wait to do a rules reminder, though, until he is at least sitting nicely and might be in a place where he is ready to obey.)
Not every day is a good day for me, though. Regrettably, my unhappy mornings turn into unhappy mornings for him, too. I confront Peter with a staccato list of his choices, then turn my attention to getting either myself or Anne fed. And he forgives me. He eventually gets his emotions back under control and picks what he wants. He doesn't withhold affection or my food until I apologize. He just loves me and moves on with his day.
I try to do the same for him.