The 7 stages of a tantruming toddler

This is my third round of toddlerhood and yet I’m still learning. Or perhaps my memory has been kind and just wiped out the horror of the past two times. Anyway. Here’s my quick guide to the seven stages of a tantruming toddler. You’ve been warned. Reminded. Or are sitting there nodding your head because it’s happening right now.

1. The Stand-Off

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Scenario: You can almost miss this first stage in the tantruming process. Are they smiling or crying? It’s hard to tell. Until they don’t move. At all. And perform the stand-off. ‘Who’s going to give in first. Me or you?’ That’s what your toddler is thinking right now.

Reason: They’re giving you a fair chance to work out what’s wrong. To see how good a parent you actually are. This is an IMPOSSIBLE task that you are destined to fail. I mean. It could be anything from the wrong socks to the wrong coat to the wrong weather conditions. Who the f*** knows?

Solution: Encouraging words (fail). Followed by threats (fail). And finally begging with chocolate.

2. The Warning

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Scenario: If the stand-off hasn’t worked and you haven’t resorted to bribery (well done) your toddler will progress to POINTING. To the thing they want. NOW. But even though they know what they want, you haven’t a clue. ‘Dat!’ they cry. ‘Dat!’ As you look on dumbfounded.

Reason: Pure frustration. That you are such an idiot parent and deliberately ignoring what they want. This is paramount to child neglect in their eyes.

Solution: Find out what they want and FAST. Before the tantrum progresses to stage 3.

3. The Pre-Meltdown

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Scenario: Things are getting serious. Your toddler is now losing the will to live. They’ve given you TWO chances to do what they want and you’ve messed up. TWICE. They’ll show you this very demonstratively by doing what is known as the Tantruming Downward Dog. Basically? Your toddler will rest their head on the floor and their bum in the air in a bid to show you just how pissed off they are.

Reason: ‘WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?’ (what your toddler would say if they could speak.)

Solution: Unless you’re totally willing to give in to whatever demand your toddler is making (if you’ve even worked it out), there’s pretty much no going back once you reach this stage. It’s now about weathering the storm.

4. The Bounce

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Scenario: Laying down isn’t getting your toddler anywhere. So now they’ll try motion AND noise. This basically involves jumping up and down in rhythm with their wails. If you’re at home, you’re likely finding this quite amusing by now. If you’re out in public, you’re probably pretending this child isn’t yours.

Reason: Pure rage. At this point your toddler can’t even remember what it is they wanted.

Solution: Step away from the toddler. And don’t look them in the eye. Whatever you do.

5. The Emotional Appeal

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Scenario: This is a sure sign your toddler is running out of tactics. So they’ll try pulling at your heartstrings. Maybe you’ll let them wear their muddy wellies indoors if they show you just how much it means to them. Those RSPCA adverts with the sad donkey haven’t got anything on your toddler.

Reason: They can’t believe you’re still in the game. ‘HOW have you not caved already?’ they’re thinking. ‘Look how sad I am!’

Solution: Don’t fall for it. You’ve come too far.

6. The Head Flip

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Scenario: They hate you.

Reason: In summary? You’ve ruined their life. Because you’re stubborn and mean and wouldn’t let them have one more bauble off the Christmas tree.

Solution: Gin.

7. The End


Scenario: Your toddler’s exhausted themselves from too much riding on that emotional rollercoaster. There’s nothing left to do now but have a little lie down. And sob. Loudly.

Reason: Stages 1-6.

Solution: Step over them. Or wait. With any luck your toddler will fall asleep where they’re lying.

Share with any parents of toddlers or anyone who might want to reminisce (although why would they?). I’d also just like to add that no toddlers were harmed in the making of this blog post. Despite what the pictures may suggest. Like the FB page for more.

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    4 thoughts on “The 7 stages of a tantruming toddler

    1. KIm

      We were late for school this morning. Like proper late. We had to sign a book and everything! The booked had a column titled “reason” the box wasn’t big enough to write much in. I went with “Life”. The truth – Two tantrums and a removal of shoes on the school run! (oh and a poo) ((the dog, not me! :-0)) xx

    2. Claire Ford

      I am a mum but also a preschool teacher so deal with tantrums a hundred times a day from a hundred different children and this post is spot on. The same pattern every time. Thank you for the giggle

        1. Sue

          The problem with a phase is that no sooner have they grown out of one phase they grow into another one, just as testing and obscure as the previous one!! But the 20/20 rose tinted goggles of hindsight is a wonderful thing and you look back at them with amusement and fondness.


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