Elana avoids meltdowns by avoiding yes-or-no questions:
One of the best things we learned was that kids shouldn't get questions that can be answered "yes" or "no." Always give them a choice, and everyone ends up happy...they've decided for themselves, and you've avoided a massive meltdown that "no" can bring.
The wisdom of this advice appeals to me in theory, but I have what I like to call a "Choice C" kid. I give him a choice between A or B, and he suggests C, and we're back in throwing distance of a tantrum. When this happens, I change tactics and try to distract him.
"Honey, do you want milk or water with your lunch?"
"I want orange juice!"
"Yum! I just got a new batch of oranges! I'll cut some for you."
[Pause. Luke contemplates the oranges and forgets about the beverage choice. I silently pour him a glass of milk.]
Not always practical, but when it works, I've sidestepped at least 15 minutes of misery.