Toddler Tantrums are Normal, But There are Ways to Respond to Them
Three-year-old Danny has quick and violent temper outbursts.
The intensity of these angry tantrums scare his mother who worries that they will get worse over the years as he gets older.
But don’t all toddlers around ages two and three have temper tantrums?
The answer is yes. Nearly all toddlers have tantrums and angry outbursts during which they are out of control. Often these episodes happen in response to a simple “no.” Other times they occur when a valued object – a toy or a household item – is taken away. Still, other times, they seem to come about for no reason at all.
For the anxious parent, the good news is that temper tantrums and angry outbursts are normal at these ages and are related to the stage of development that children are in. They are usually not about a child having anger issues or developing in an unhealthy way.
What’s going on is that as children grow and develop, they are trying new things, learning new rules, and being told more often about new forms of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. As a result, the world can be a very frustrating and confusing place for toddlers.
It’s not easy for a youngster to have so many restrictions placed on them or to have so many big people telling them “no” so often. Consequently, when life gets truly overwhelming, the toddler blows a gasket. That’s the temper tantrum that most parents have experienced.
More frustrating than the day-to-day experiences of a young child attempting to cope with rules, limits, and their own inability to do what they want is when they don’t get enough help with their anger. They will feel better – even if they can’t express this or show it – when someone takes over and helps them deal with their out-of-control behavior.
It’s comforting to know that your parent remains calm in the face of an emotional storm and that they are in charge and can help out. If the parent also loses it or is completely at a loss as to what to do during a tantrum, the toddler is left to struggle on their own. Toddlers just do not have the emotional resources to learn how to exercise better self-control. Self-control has to be taught.
How do you teach a toddler self-control?
One simple and effective way is by demonstrating and modeling calmness and control. When the toddler is out of control, it is very important for you to be completely in control. That is both reassuring and instructive.
Another way to teach self-control is by handling the aftermath of a temper explosion in a matter of fact and casual way. Show by your attitude that a tantrum is no big deal and that the environment and atmosphere will not dramatically change just because they had a meltdown.
Finally, you can help your toddler deal with temper tantrums by talking about what could have been done differently and then next time – before a tantrum begins – reminding them of alternative methods of handling things. For instance, you can emphasize putting their frustration and anger into words, rather than simply exploding in anger.
These suggestions won’t necessarily prevent tantrums — at least not in the short run. Only time, good teaching, and maturity can do that.