The Meltdown Classification Scale, picture of a little boy throwing a tantrum. 6 categories to help parents predict and prepare for a temper tantrum.

The Meltdown Classification Scale

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It’s hurricane season here in Florida, the great, humid state in which I live. That means we are constantly on watch for storms brewing out in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico that may ram into our coastline bringing with them high winds and damaging flood waters. In the last two years my city, Jacksonville, has been hit twice. First by hurricane Matthew in 2016 and then by hurricane Irma in 2017.

The Meltdown Classification Scale, picture of a little boy throwing a tantrum. 6 categories to help parents predict and prepare for a temper tantrum.
Hurricane Irma Meme

Similarly, there are other storms a brewin’ right here in my very own home. It’s summertime. Kids are out of school and under the same roof, putting them in close proximity to me and their siblings around the clock. This nearness of bodies and mixing of personalities can only mean one thing… we are at the height of meltdown season and this mom is constantly on watch for outbursts that may ram into my living room bringing with them a torrent of complaints and a flood of tears.

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I am the Jim Cantore of this home, reporting for The Weathered (and Worn and Weary) Channel. Much like Jim Cantore, I have a tendency to over-exaggerate and over-sensationalize the situation in hopes of increasing my ratings… I mean, my readership. Unlike Jim Cantore, however, I am not being paid to ride out these forceful disturbances that blow through my home on a near-daily basis.

Being a born and raised Floridian, I am very familiar with the Hurricane Category Scale, a system that helps to predict how much wind and rain to expect and allows the public to gage when it is appropriate to stay put during a hurricane and when it is necessary to pack up and get the heck out of Dodge.

As a Mom of three, the oldest being 7, I am also very familiar with the Meltdown Classification Scale (MCS), a system that allows me to gage just how much damage to expect and prepare for when one of my kids flies off the handle.

The Meltdown Classification Scale: 6 categories to help parents predict and prepare for a tantrumUsing the MCS, I can forecast when it is appropriate to stay put and ride out the meltdown or when it is time to send the kid packing to his or her room, isolating the storm and minimizing damage for the rest of us.

Never heard of the MCS? Well then allow me to explain.

The Meltdown Classification Scale is very similar to that of a hurricane.  There are 6 categories with each one getting progressively more fierce and with a greater possibility for damage and destruction. They are as follows:

Tropical Storm Meltdown

This is the precursor to the full-blown meltdown and is characterized with whining and a gracious helping of pouting. Feet may be stomped and complaints launched but this pre-tantrum should pass relatively quickly with little to no long-term damage to you or your home.

Tropical storm meltdowns pop up all the time, usually several times a day in my house. Nothing to worry about, par for the course.

Category 1 Meltdown

You have now entered meltdown territory. Shortened as merely CAT 1, this is the mildest of the meltdown situations. The whining and complaining have progressed to crying with intermittent and sudden screaming. A CAT 1 Meltdown can typically be extinguished using calm, rational speech or a decoy.

Should this meltdown come up against a barrier, however, perhaps an antagonizing sibling or a misconstrued look from a parent, this meltdown could quickly evolve to a CAT 2 or 3. So take caution and tread lightly.

CAT 2 Meltdown

Now the screaming is no longer intermittent but is constant and spine-chilling. Your child’s face has turned a shocking shade of molten lava as the active volcano of their emotions continues to erupt.  The winds are picking up and their discomposure could last for a long time. Hours even. Or minutes. You really never know with these impulsive, tiny humans.

CAT 3 Meltdown

This category includes everything above and brings self-inflicted bodily harm onto the scene. Your kid may be throwing themselves on the ground, banging their heads into walls or floors, lurching backwards into door frames or losing all signs of muscular support which sends them hurtling to the ground.

Or, commonly seen with a CAT 3, they may choose to destroy an object they are holding rather than injure themselves. Maybe they hurl a snack across the room because it was served on a plate instead of a bowl like they wanted but never actually verbalized out loud. Or perhaps they violently tore up a school project they had been meticulously working on for 30 minutes because they accidentally wrote the letter “B” backwards.

Of course, once they are injured or their prized possession destroyed, they only become more upset. Never mind that it was their own fault. And never mind that you could have easily transferred that snack to a bowl or given them an eraser to fix the backwards “B” had they just asked nicely. Rational thoughts and suggestions are out of the question at the CAT 3 level.

CAT 4 Meltdown

It’s getting serious now and you may want to consider leaving the home altogether for the sake of safety. This category includes all of the above but also includes acts of violence towards others; kicking, hitting, biting, scratching or throwing objects at parents, siblings, the dog or really anyone in their way.

I highly recommend escorting the child to their room at this point for some quiet time to cool off and to separate them from other living beings that they may try and target.

Heaven help you if a CAT 4 occurs while you are in a public place like a grocery store. My only advice is to leave immediately and get away from onlookers as fast as you can even if that means dragging the screeching child out sideways in such a way that you can almost guarantee someone will be calling the authorities on you.

If you can manage to safely secure the child in a car seat or their room for a bit, one of two things could happen. They could calm down and possibly even feel remorseful after a good, long cry, or…

CAT 5 Meltdown

Baton down the hatches, bar the doors and board up the windows, folks. You are in for it. This is the most ferocious, the loudest and the messiest of the categories.

It includes all things from the pre-meltdown Tropical Storm to the Category 4 Meltdown but now, for the grand finale, culminates in a puddle of urine and/or a pile of poop on your floor or (and this is the worst) in their car seat.

Yes… the tantrum has reached such a terrifying and intense level that now your child no longer has control of their bowels. Either that or they have complete control of their bowels yet purposefully releases them in an act of defiance. Regardless, now there is a mess to clean up and possibly a car seat to dismantle.

Speaking of messes… typically, the child in a CAT 5 meltdown scenario will also decide to totally and completely demolish the space they have been left in to “cool off.” This could happen before or after they urinate on the floor. They may dump out every toy they own, pull books from the shelves and dump drawers full of clothes on the ground in a tornado of fury.

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If you are thinking that this is too horrific to be true… it’s not.  While category 4 and 5 meltdowns are pretty rare in this house especially now that the kiddos are getting a little older (thank you, Jesus), they do exist.

Fellow parents, I will be praying for strength and patience as we weather these storms together. May you stay strong and hydrated. Eventually the raging tempers shall pass and peace will be restored to your home once again… for the next 5 minutes.

In the event that mass destruction has taken place, make sure you have FEMA on board (FOOD for EMOTIONAL MELTDOWNS… and also ALCOHOL). In other words, have some snacks and wine handy to help soften the blow of these outbursts. *

Together we will rebuild!

In all seriousness though… good luck! These kids are crazy.

Every experienced any of these categories? Anything new to add? If not, don’t comment…I don’t want to hear it. Just kidding… but not really.

*The Flower Donkey Diaries does not endorse or condone excessive day drinking nor binge eating of your emotions. Unless, of course, you are dealing with a CAT 4 or 5… then you absolutely have my blessing to eat and drink all the things.

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The Meltdown Classification Scale: 6 categories to help parents predict and prepare for a tantrum

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18 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Look at that sweet face!!! ☺
    But I fully know about and have witnessed many meltdowns that have escalated to a Cat 6 quicker than a speeding bullet that even Superman or Superwoman couldn’t stop! Hang in there, girl…
    school starts soon. 😃

  2. Floby Villaralvo

    Love this very informative and helpful post from you! I do believe that we should be able to crack down when they are going to have tantrums, pinning for reference later! Good read!

    1. Katie Roseborough

      Yes, totally agree. This behavior is ridiculous and shouldn’t be tolerated but I am glad you enjoyed the comical breakdown of the evolution of the meltdown😂

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