Causes of Toddler Temper Tantrums:
Why do toddlers begin to have temper tantrums? There are a few main reasons toddlers have tantrums:
- Developmentally, toddlers begin to want more independence and control: Unfortunately many things toddlers may want to do all by themselves are not things they can do by themselves (Ex: putting on socks, pouring a cup of milk, etc)! Toddlers also start to notice how few things they do get to choose in a day, and this can cause toddler temper tantrums (Ex: Don’t get to choose to skip teeth brushing, don’t get to choose bedtime, don’t get to eat cookies for breakfast, etc.).
- Strong emotions, weak verbal skills: Toddlers have very real, very deep feelings. Unfortunately, their language development and ability to express those feelings don’t keep pace with their feelings. Toddlers often feel misunderstood and overwhelmed by trying to express their needs, wants and feelings. Toddlers may also get overwhelmed when they don’t understand fully what someone else is trying to communicate to them!
- A phsycial need isn’t met immediately: Toddler temper tantrums often start when a physical need isn’t immediately met. Delaying a toddler’s nap, lunch, or diaper change can easily cause a meltdown!
- Tantrums get toddlers what they want: Tantrums often continue or get worse when a tot begins to realize s/he will get what s/he wants by throwing a fit.
Tips For Handling Toddler Temper Tantrums:
- Remain calm: It can be frustrating trying to get through to a toddler during a tantrum, but adding negative energy by yelling or getting upset will only make the situation worse.
- Give your toddler some space to calm down: When a tantrum is at it’s worst, it’s usually best to step back (as long as your child is safe) and let your little one calm down a bit.
- Never give in to a toddler temper tantrum: When parents give in to their child’s wants after a tantrum, they unintentionally teach their child that tantrums are an effective way of getting what s/he wants. Giving in to toddler temper tantrums will only encourage your child to throw more fits in the future!
- Talk about your toddler’s point-of-view and feelings: When your tot is calmed down enough to listen, show your little one that you understand why the tantrum took place. Use simple words to express your child’s side. Ex: “You didn’t want to get your shoes on. You were mad. You were mad because you didn’t want to get your shoes on. You said, ‘No shoes!’. But I had to put your shoes on. You had to wear shoes because we were going ‘bye-bye’ and that made you mad.”
This does two things. First, it shows your little one that you understand him/her. This can help ease a lot of frustration when your toddler knows you understand, even when s/he still doesn’t get her/his way. Second, it teaches your toddler the words needed to express those feelings in the future.
- Talk about how you would like your toddler to handle that situation in the future: Toddlers don’t know how to solve their problems in socially acceptable ways. They need to be taught. When the toddler temper tantrum is over and your child knows you understand him/her, talk about other ways to handle a situation in the future. Ex: “Next time, if you don’t want to wear these shoes you can show me other shoes you want to wear.” / “Next time you want to try to put your shirt on without help then ask, ‘By myself?’ or ‘No help?’.” Etc.