how I caused my toddler's meltdown

How I Caused My Toddler’s Public Meltdown

I like to think of myself as a smart and well educated person. From time to time, I even think that maybe, just maybe I am getting this parenting thing down. Then I do something so incredibly dumb that I actually manage to surprise myself. I…wait for it…caused my toddler to have a public meltdown of epic proportions.

In the midst of the battle, when I was down on my knees in the trenches, I may have been a bit frustrated with my daughter. I was embarrassed. She was screaming in such a way that I am fairly certain there is permanent damage to my inner ear. What? Oh, sorry. Thought I heard something.

Anyway, as my daughter was screaming bloody murder in the middle of the grocery store, for a second I thought of asking her, “What is wrong with you?” Sure, she is two and therefore prone to her share of toddler tantrums and meltdowns (two very different things, by the way). But this? This was not her. It was all me. I caused the meltdown and I have some tips on how you can avoid making my same mistakes.

how I caused my toddler's meltdown

Allow me to set the stage. After a busy week of devoting probably 80%…okay, 90% of my attention to my job, it was finally Saturday. I am a teacher, but I teach online and work from home. It is “back to school” time and just…cray cray. Work has been demanding the majority of my attention lately, which is very difficult for a tiny human to understand. Especially when you are right in front of them, yet not fully “present”.

Tip #1: Strive for quality time with your child over a quantity of time.

Right now, my time is limited and so I try to make sure that the time I spend with my daughter is well spent. Those minutes are precious. No playing while checking my email or social media. Folding laundry while talking also does not count. Even if it is five minutes, give your child your complete and undivided attention.

Mistake #1: I confused running errands with time to bond with my daughter.

My daughter loves to go on adventures with me. She has a blast going to the grocery or Target with mama. I try to make these jaunts adventures where we point out letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. We sing songs in the car and generally try to make it a fun experience.

Tip #2: Make your child feel useful by giving them specific tasks.

When out and about, I like to give my daughter a “job”. Sometimes it is just holding my purse. If we are heading somewhere familiar, I will ask her to look for something specific for me, like hide and go seek. Trader Joe’s, for example, has a hidden lobster somewhere in the store to find. It is hard to even think about having a meltdown when you are focused on a specific task!

Mistake #2: Thinking your child will be a great helper when they are tired.

On the day in question, my daughter and I had made a few stops. One to the book store, where she picked out a new Curious George book after much thought and consideration. Afterwards, we went right next door to a Whole Foods Market to pick up some seafood for dinner. My daughter had the task of holding her new, beloved book and spotting where we would buy the fish. She was delighted with both her book and her task, however the crab legs were astronomically priced and so we left without making a purchase. I saw my daughter yawning and yet I pressed on.

Tip #3: Schedule your outings around your child’s naps.

It was 1:48 p.m. and my daughter’s nap time is 2:00 p.m. I thought, “I’ll just make a quick stop at the grocery store for just this one item.” My daughter’s eyes were already beginning to droop and yet I still parked the car and carried her into the grocery store. It was a recipe for disaster. We did get the crab legs, but of course, I thought, “While we’re here, we’ll just a pick up a couple more things.”

You might have an idea of what happens next, but it is WORSE than you can imagine (and involves a bird!) Scroll down and click the next page to read more of my tips and the mistakes you should NEVER make!

18 thoughts on “How I Caused My Toddler’s Public Meltdown

    1. Thank you for the encouragement! I know that things would have turned out differently if I would have stopped to think! But sometimes, you are in a rush to complete your “To Do” list and overlook the obvious!

  1. We have all been there! I do not have a fear of birds, but I have certainly been guilty of taking my kids places when I knew they were too tired. Another tip – don’t make promises or let your kids believe they will get to do something, when circumstances beyond your control may prevent it (the cause of my daughter’s recent public meltdown). My kids get tired of my saying “We’ll see”, but it does leave me an “out” if things don’t work out in our favor.
    Karla recently posted…Scary to be a Christian in Public School?My Profile

    1. That is absolutely great advice. I use “we’ll see” quite a bit with my students, but my daughter is at an age where everything must be concrete and as literal as possible. I think doing what you say you are going to do at this age, as you advise, really helps to build trust. Thank you for commenting!

  2. yes, know the feeling, so embarrassing when they have these little meltdown in public. My daughter is two and a half and sometimes out of nowhere she can have her little meltdown. Most of the times I react to it in a very patient way but there are moments that I had it up to here and my reaction is a bit like here little meltdown.
    I can be very understanding of her feelings and I also know that when something goes wrong in her mind that it feels like her world is falling apart. So normally my reaction is very calm, but yes from time to time I react in the wrong way.

    1. I hear you, Barbara! I think it is easier to remain calm at home, but when the meltdown occurs in public, you start getting embarrassed and stressed and it’s hard! Which, of course, only accelerates your toddler’s melting. All we can do is try our best, right? Thank you so much for commenting!

    1. Oh, I felt so awful. You are so right about the mom guilt. My daughter forgot it all by the time she woke up from her nap, but I have thought about it all week. My hope is that this mama learned her lessons and won’t make the same mistakes twice!

  3. My daughter was beginning to have a meltdown the last time we went grocery shopping. Between teething and getting close to nap time, she was just done and letting me know. Definitely good tips to follow.
    Better luck next time!

    1. I think part of the problem is the grocery store! It is very over stimulating. I mean, the mistakes are mine to own, but you can kind of understand why these little ones have a hard time with all the loud noises and crowds. Good luck with teething, too! That is the WORST!

  4. oh we have all been that Momma – I remember mine having the meltdown over Spaghetti O’s once in the local supermarket – she was tired and cranky as it was passed naptime. Lessons were learnt that day !

    1. Isn’t it funny the things you remember! I bet you still cringe when when you pass Spaghetti O’s! I am somewhat glad that I am not alone in my mistakes. Thank you so much for commenting.

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