Almost all toddlers have occasional temper tantrums: episodes of crying, pouting, whining, screaming, feet-stomping or head-banging that occur when they are angry or frustrated. These tantrums also may include breath-holding, or more aggressive behaviors like hitting, kicking or biting. Tantrums typically begin at around 1 year of age, continue through the toddler years, and usually end by the age of 4.
Tantrums are considered a normal part of development. Toddlers are trying to develop a sense of self and independence; however, with relatively small vocabularies, they are not yet able to express their feelings in words. When she cannot do something for herself, cannot get what she wants or becomes upset enough to feel out of control, your child's frustration may lead to a tantrum. This happens most often when children are tired, hungry or uncomfortable in a particular situation; they are finding it difficult to communicate feelings and to control their emotions.
During a tantrum, it is important for you to remain calm. Seeing an adult shout and lose her temper back only teaches the child to do the same. Since many toddlers have tantrums to get attention or to get something they want, it is generally best to ignore them, whenever possible, but be sure they are not hurting themselves or others (see below). Sometimes, changing the toddler's environment may be helpful. For instance, if a tantrum occurs when you are in a public place, simply pick the child up and leave. If you are at home, you may want to move her into a different room. Trying to reason with a toddler during a tantrum does not help toddlers aren't yet able to reason.
If your child is in a rage and you feel she is a threat to herself or other children around her, move her to a quiet place and hold her securely until she begins to calm down. Although most temper tantrums can be ignored, behaviors such as biting or hitting another person are never acceptable and should not be ignored. Use the time-out technique to remove your child from the source of her anger.
It is critically important to be consistent during tantrum episodes. Do not give in to demands. Try not to laugh this will only encourage the behavior you are trying to eliminate. Your toddler must learn that you will hold fast to your decisions and will not change your mind.
Be patient! Remember that tantrums are part of normal development and are not a result of poor parenting. As your child grows, he will progressively learn to control his temper and express his feelings with words.
Last updated May 29, 2011