The 10 Stages Of A Toddler Meltdown

As a mom of an almost four-year-old, I am proud to announce that I can read my toddler like a book. I know when his meltdowns are coming, and exactly what they are going to look like. I am not so proud to announce I have no idea how to stop them. The good thing is, if you can accurately measure where you are on the meltdown scale, you know how much time you have left to endure. It’s like being able to see the tip of the mountain; you can begin telling yourself you’ll get to the top eventually.

Here are the 10 stages of a toddler meltdown, and how you’ll probably respond to each one.

1. Discomfort.

He gets that look in his eye. You sense there is something off.

2. Distrust.

His mild irritation is taking a turn for the worst. You are the enemy.

3. The Build-Up.

He starts getting visibly frustrated. This is the beginning of what I like to call, “the no reason zone.”

4. Anger.

He definitely DOES NOT WANT whatever you are trying to give him to distract him from total meltdown.

5. Seething Rage.

What the hell is wrong with you? He DOES NOT WANT whatever that is. You are the worst.

6. Sadness.

Why does his life SUCK SO BAD?

7. Fatigue.

All the rage and sadness is exhausting. You should still keep your distance because YOU ARE AWFUL.

8. More Rage.

He seriously HATES EVERYTHING right now.

9. Despair.

But it’s too exhausting to hate everything. He suddenly can’t remember why he is pissed.

10. Hope.

He remembers he likes crayons/Spongebob/cheese/whatever is in his general vicinity and snaps out of it, unscathed.

You are a frazzled wreck. Yay, parenthood!

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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    • Boozy Inactivist

      Were you in my house this morning? Epic breakfast meltdown.

    • Spongeworthy

      The thing that gets me the most is that the tantrums are over such stupid stuff!! Boy has had a fit because I sliced his toast. He was trying to stick it back together and screaming like I cut his arm off. Not to mention I have always sliced his toast. Why is it no good today?! WHY?

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      • Lackadaisical

        Yes, I can remember that one. The fun part … she blooming well asked me to before I made it but changed her mind and forgot that she asked me to cut it.

      • Spongeworthy

        Haha they are crazy! Good thing they’re so cute.
        He also had a fit once because I wouldn’t take the hat off of his head. Mind you, he was looking at a picture of himself wearing a hat…he wasn’t actually wearing it. I tried to explain that I could not reach into a photograph, but he was having none of it.

      • M.

        Yeah, the utter lack of logic is what gets me. I told my son the other day that when the baby in my tummy is born he will be it’s big brother. He proceeded to scream at me “but I’m big!!!” and no amount of my telling him “yes, that’s why you’ll be the BIG brother” would soothe him. Wtf is wrong with their brains!?!

      • Spongeworthy

        It really is like dealing with a tiny, angry drunk sometimes.

      • Alexandra

        THIS!! LMFAO

      • biggerthanthesound

        My daughter once freaked out because her cheese was no longer a circle. Why was it no longer a circle, you ask… because she ate some of it. Yeah.

      • Spongeworthy

        Ahahaha my niece once had a full on meltdown because she peeled a banana and then couldn’t get it back in the peel.

      • http://misuser.blogspot.com Alex Lee

        Probably too soon to teach him that the toast d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶c̶a̶r̶e̶ is indifferent.

      • Spongeworthy

        I just want him to be innocent a little longer before I expose him to the harsh truths of the world, you know?

    • Williwaw

      My problem is that my toddler has been known to cycle from 1-9 in about 2.8 seconds! Usually over something I never saw coming (this morning his objection was that I shared a bagel with him, which I guess was a mistake because ALL bagels are his property, even those he cannot finish eating).

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      As a non-parent, the worst part of this for me is that it bears an unfortunate resemblance to being an adult with Asperger’s. I was recently on a road trip and burst into uncontrollable weeping because I missed my exit and had to go another ten miles before I could turn around. Why couldn’t the highway planners sixty years before have looked into the future and seen how tired and hungry I was?!? Even telling myself I was being stupid and irrational and this was an easily fixable problem didn’t help.

      • Korine

        I feel that driving 20 miles out of your way when you’re tired and hungry is a completely rational reason to melt down.

      • NotTakenNotAvailable

        And this did take place in Indiana, so it wasn’t like I could console myself by looking at the pretty mountains in the distance like I can here in Denver!

      • Heather

        Agreed. Totally melt-down worthy. I’d cry for 5 minutes, then turn around illegally in one of those “authorized vehicles only” turnarounds. LOL

      • NotTakenNotAvailable

        There were none to be had!!!! Screw you, whoever planned I-70 in Indiana!

      • Courtney Lynn

        I have ADHD and hypersensitivity is part of it. I would totally cry. I started bawling in the grocery store on Sunday because I had this cute little family grocery trip in my head planned (my husband works long hours, we don’t get much time as a family together so anyone who finds it stupid, shut up and fuck off) and my husband just wanted to hurry through it. He got frustrated with me when he saw the list and how long it was. I seriously cried. He later apologized because he realized why I was upset.

    • Heather

      It is the best when I ignore the whole deal but hubbs is the one trying to reason. Watching this process from a not-so-distant-outsider’s perspective makes it all pretty hilarious!

    • EX

      The best thing about tantruming kids is how quick they are able to forgive, forget and move on once the tantrum has passed. I try to remember that when I am in the shit.

      • Lackadaisical

        Yes. The surly angst of a prototeen sulk can last ages. I am told that when my prototeen becomes a teen they will last even longer. His little sister’s strops are louder and more dramatic but she is sunshine and rainbows almost instantly after.

      • Shea

        “Prototeen” is so much better than “preteen”, or, god forbid, “tween”.

    • Lackadaisical

      I know exactly how to stop the toddler tantrums. Follow my easy 3 step programme:

      1. Wait a few years
      2. Have a child who is no longer a toddler
      3. Be smug that your child no longer tantrums even though tantrums are no longer relevant to their age

      As a warning kids who have grown out of tantrums move into sulks, which come in various shades of angst. They can last a lot longer but have the advantages of being quieter and provoking fewer judgments on your parenting abilities from passers by.

      • Alanna Jorgensen

        Having a 4 year old and an 11 year old in the house I honestly cannot decide if I hate the tantrums or the sulks worse.

      • Lackadaisical

        Agreed. I have a 5 year old daughter who has outgrown the proper, hardcore toddler tantrums but obviously still reacts with tears and shouting in a tantrum light way. She no longer screams and kicks on the floor but has cranked whining and tears up to 11. I also have an 11 year old who is lord of the kingdom of passive aggressive and has already earned a degree in sulk (he is studying for his PhD in sulk which he should get when he hits 13). In between is their 8 year old brother who is jack of all strops but master of none. He manages to combine a diluted form of each … which may actually be the strop I hate most.

    • Guest

      Ah, yes. Number 5. My boy screams, “I don’t want ANYTHING!!!” When I offer him the thing he asked for two minutes ago.

    • Lisa Walker

      My kid melts down if there is a crust on ANYTHING. And I mean he perceives that cookies, bagels, toast, granola bars, etc have ‘crusts’. What kid thinks he can’t eat the outside of a chocolate chip cookie?

    • Véronique the Attachment Shark

      OMG my daughter just started this as she is now 21 months old. Yup, the half hour, throw herself on the floor and scream and not want you to touch her. And I never know why she’s actually throwing a fit.

      I’ve learned to just sit close to her and let her know that when she’s ready to tell me what she wants, I’ll try and help her out. Trying to cuddle her will only reinforce the tantrum, and yelling at her will only make it worse.

    • Courtney Lynn

      This and the comments are cracking me up. My son is 2 and he really is like a little drunk person. The tiniest things set him off. The page not turning correctly, his marker not coloring as much as he would like (because he left the lid off it). The other day, I binge-watched “Convos with my 2 year old” to lighten the mood. I laughed so hard at his next fit.

    • Fondue

      I’m sending my kid to military school when she hits toddlerhood. Military schools accept them that young, right?

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