Unspecified Toddler Sadness Rage.

This is a very serious condition and very little can be done if not caught in time.  If you spot these very early symptoms there may be help:

  • Listlessness.  Lack of interest in any activity for more than thirty seconds.
  • An oddly intense moment of fury about the fact that Octonauts/Dinosaur Train/Peppa Pig/Tree Fu Tom is or isn’t on.
  • High pitched whinge that gets louder and higher as you ignore it.

If you catch it at this point, the best thing to do is just stop whatever you’re doing and do whatever their current most favourite thing is instead (although this can sometimes backfire, in which case they’re too far gone anyway).  But the odds are that you’re doing another eleven things at once and whilst you are able to acknowledge that your toddler seems a bit tetchier than normal, the washing machine looks like it’s leaking and there seem to be ants coming in through the actual wall – how is that possible?

So you don’t notice that your toddler is a bit upset about…everything…until the explosion comes, usually over something very small like a missing lego piece that you didn’t even know existed or a very small request like “Please don’t lick the wheels of the buggy”.  The tears are genuine and prolific.  The cry is that of a tired toddler, mixed with one in pain, mixed with that whiney noise most parents learn to normally ignore.  Her face is bright red and there is no doubt about it – this is going to be a big one.  If you try and pick them up at this point, you will suffer a flailing-limb relating injury to your face or solar plexus.  But that’s okay because they don’t want to be picked up.  Except that they also do.


Attempts to find out what is wrong (Have you hurt yourself?  What’s happened?  What did you do?) will just be met with further wailing and limb flying.  To sum up – everything is wrong, but also nothing really.  You have here a first class case of Unspecified Toddler Sadness Rage.  This is usually bought on by an overdue naptime and a sudden realistation from the toddler that the world is highly confusing and contradictory.  It’s possible they may also be too hot, too cold or both at once.

The only cure for this is a LOT of cuddles.  You’ve got to fight your way through those furious toddler fists of rage and just cuddle them on the sofa like they’re a tiny baby again.  Get their favourite teddy, blankie and dummy – this is not the time for a “come on, you’re a big girl/boy now” pep-talk – and rock them, stroke their hair and yes, even SING until they’re better.  They may well fall asleep on you – under no circumstances attempt to move them or you will be back at square one.

The toddler will certainly be back to normal very quickly, and will act as if absolutely nothing out of the ordinary has happened.  You, on the other hand will likely be emotionally exhausted with a dead arm after holding a 27lb two year old in an awkward position for that length of time.  You will feel like you want to consumer a large amount of wine and/or crisps. This is very important – do NOT resist this urge.

As long as you act quickly and follow the given advice, everything will be okay. Most importantly, when Unspecified Toddler Sadness Rage strikes, do remember that it can reoccur at any point during that day. Absolutely do not attempt to do the supermarket shop, buy new shoes or visit elderly relatives.

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2 thoughts on “Unspecified Toddler Sadness Rage.

  1. This. describes. my life. In fact, it describes the evening I have just had. I had to lie down on some strewn about sofa cushions (don’t ask), holding my almost 3-year old in my arms, and kiss his supposedly injured foot, until the sadness had passed, But as you say, it can reoccur at any moment. We went home very quickly and did ultra-express-bedtime.

    Very insightful observations. I will try and heed your dire warnings next time and watch out for the early warning signs.

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