Why Do Toddlers have Temper Tantrums and What Do They Mean?
Oh, temper tantrums.
Every parent dreads them, but they are bound to happen! Temper tantrums are a common part of childhood, and they can come on quickly and unexpectedly. They can also get quite loud! Temper tantrums are a typical part of growing up. Learn more on toddler temper tantrums and what your child might be trying to communicate.
What is a temper tantrum?
A temper tantrum is an emotional outburst that usually starts in early childhood. Tantrums may be physical, verbal, or both. Children may cry, scream, hit, stomp their feet, or use their voice or body in other ways to show they are angry. Tantrums often begin to happen when children are 12-18 months old, and may be the most prevalent when children are 2-3 years old, and usually subside around age 4.
Why do temper tantrums happen?
Temper tantrums are a way a young child communicates they are frustrated. Health professionals say this happens because of “unmet needs or desires”—but what does that mean? It could mean a variety of things. Sometimes this means baby isn’t getting their way. For example, a parent may deny them a treat they want, or may not buy them a toy they want at the store. It also means they may not be able to figure something out or finish a task. Children also may have tantrums because they don’t want to do something. Because they don’t yet have the words to communicate their frustration and needs, they act out.
Something you may notice is that a child’s reaction during a tantrum is much more intense than the situation that triggered it. For example, you may tell your child they can’t watch their favorite show, and they may scream and throw things. This is because children don’t yet have a way to express their frustration, so they act out in an animated way.
What are some common causes of tantrums?
Often, the common causes of a temper tantrum are:
- Wanting something, including attention
- Not wanting to do something
- Being hungry or tired. Being hungry or tired may not be the cause of a temper tantrum, but they may make a temper tantrum worse.
Should I worry if my child is having temper tantrums?
Toddler temper tantrums can be difficult to deal with, but they are a normal part of baby’s development. It is normal for children to have their most intense temper tantrums from age 2-3. By age 4, temper tantrums should get better. If your child is 4 or older and their tantrums persist or get worse, speak to a healthcare provider.
Additionally, while your child may have strong physical or verbal outbursts, they should not be hurting themselves or others. If this happens, speak to a healthcare provider and ask how you can keep your child safe.
If my child is having a temper tantrum, is it because I did something wrong?
Not at all! It’s important to remember that temper tantrums are a normal part of child development. At this young age, your child is dealing with wanting independence, while also wanting attention and love from their parent. That means that while many things parents do may trigger a tantrum, you as a parent are not doing anything wrong.
There are things parents can help do to manage these outbursts. Learn more about how to handle a temper tantrum.