20 Crazy Causes of our Kids’ Meltdowns

The other morning, all hell broke loose at our house over a piece of scrambled egg. My son had snatched a bit off my daughter’s plate at breakfast. Ordinarily, she is a pretty sweet kid, but she roared a terrible roar and gnashed her terrible teeth and generally lost it. Over a piece of scrambled egg.

I never cease to be amazed by the variety of things — teeny tiny things — that make my children pitch a fit. While a disproportionate number of meltdowns seem to revolve around food, there’s no end to the objects that can trigger them. Sometimes, the cause of a meltdown is obvious, whether it’s staking out territory with a sibling (dude, that’s my breakfast) or when a child is hungry or overtired. Other times, the reason is a mystery: Is it hormonal? Is the moon in retrograde? Is this karmic payback for the times I drove my own mother nuts? Who knows. What’s clear, though, is that misery enjoys company, and so I asked a bunch of other moms to share stories of their children’s most epic meltdowns. Enjoy.

“My 3-year-old son insisted that he pour his own milk on his cereal. Immediately afterward, he started screaming that he didn’t want any milk on his cereal and wanted me to take it out.” — Angie Simmons Peters

“My daughter, who is soon to be four and wants to be referred to as ‘Princess Girl’ had a meltdown of seismic destruction because her older brother told her that she could not be a Sea Monkey when she grows up.” — KC Schramm

“Tonight my son had a meltdown because I beat him to the bathroom for his bath. I wasn’t aware that we were racing.” — Christi Gates-Hale

“When my son was three we had to zip into the grocery store to get three things including broccoli. Well, my husband was with us and didn’t know that I always let my son pick the produce. We were in a rush and my husband grabbed the broccoli and the screaming was so loud that everyone stopped. My son was trying to climb out of the cart to grab it back from his dad, all the while sobbing loudly. My husband took him back to the car as he was screaming ‘I get the broccoli’ nonstop … all the way home, until the poor guy passed out from grief. He didn’t even get to eat the broccoli because he slept through dinner.” — Allison McDonald

“My 18-month-old pitched a screaming fit until I put one of his shirts on him like a pair of pants. He didn’t want actual pants, just this particular shirt. He looked ridiculous toddling around the house with his legs in the sleeves and the shirt tucked into the waistband of the diaper to keep it from falling off.” — Shannon Thomas

“As a preschool teacher, I could write a book about meltdowns. My favorite is the meltdown over the wrong white cup … which is identical to the 29 other cups. Lunchtime is meltdown central.” — Rhi Sugars

“‘He looked at me.’” — Marcy Felsenfeld

“‘He touched me.’” — Adrianne Ward Bunny

“My husband was once in Japan for work and brought home this little toy that was supposed to be a mushroom with a face and a hat, only my two-year-old decided it looked like Humpty Dumpty and that’s what she called it — or, rather, ‘Bumpy Bumpy.’ One day, Bumpy Bumpy was just gone. When I told her, she had a meltdown. Then she had another one an hour later. Then another one at bedtime. Then another one in the morning. It didn’t seem like life could go on without Bumpy Bumpy. Turns out he was the mascot of some Japanese cell phone company. I hunted down a branch down in New York and, victory! Got one! When I brought it home, my daughter barely glanced at it.” — Judy Epstein

“Cutting the cheese into small pieces instead of leaving it in larger chunks … or sometimes vice versa.” — Sara Berg

“I was excited to show my son, then 2, the personalized chair I’d gotten him. His name looked great embroidered on it. But he cried for an hour or more because he was just sure that his name, which is Courtland, had a ‘p’ in it and there was no ‘p’ on the chair.” — Mary Hale Morris

“The ‘check wipe.’ My daughter will stand in the bathroom for 20 minutes screaming for a ‘check wipe’ rather than just pull up her pants and get on with life.” — Courtney M. Williams

“In Publix, I wouldn’t let him take all the coupons out of the coupon machines. Full-blown, on the floor, crying and screaming meltdown.” — Amy Sage

“His pencil didn’t sharpen straight and he had to do spelling.” — Annemarie Vinci Chagnon

“In the car, my son asked for a drink when we were two houses away from ours and I told him he’d have to wait until we got inside. Upon arriving at home, he refused to get out of the car until he realized he had to pee. And then forgot he had wanted a drink.” — Jenny Saul-Avila

“Anything to do with ketchup.” — Rivky Breuer

“We didn’t get ‘our’ changing room at the pool.” — Jen Gilmore

“After several warnings about the misuse of a metal fork (banging and carving the dining room table), it was replaced with plastic. He screamed for 45 minutes in front of a plate of his favorite food while we had normal conversation around him.” — Georgianna Brajkovich

“My three-year-old is not prone to meltdowns, but last Saturday he bawled and bawled because I couldn’t make it be Sunday so we could go to church. He then tried to put on different clothes in an attempt to change my mind. He was delighted the next day when I ‘made’ it Sunday.” — Wendy Bach

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