Temper Tantrums

For a young child, temper tantrums are often a simple reflection of frustration. They may last only a few seconds, or as long as an hour. Tantrums are actually a normal form of communication. Temper tantrums range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. They’re equally common in boys and girls and usually occur between the ages of 1 to 3. Kids’ temperaments vary dramatically — so some kids may experience regular tantrums, whereas others have them rarely. Unlike adults, kids don’t have the same inhibitions or control.

Tantrums are common during the second year of life, a time when children are acquiring language. Toddlers generally understand more than they can express. Imagine not being able to communicate your needs to someone — a frustrating experience that may cause a tantrum. As language skills improve, tantrums tend to decrease.

Several basic causes of tantrums are familiar to parents everywhere: The child is seeking attention or is tired, hungry, or uncomfortable. In addition, tantrums are often the result of kid’s frustration with the world — they can’t get something (for example, an object or a parent) to do what they want. Frustration is an unavoidable part of their lives as they learn how people, objects, and their own bodies work.

A small child encounters lots of frustrations in daily life, such as trying to put shoes on, and being too short to get a favorite toy off a shelf. A tantrum may be the child’s way of dealing with these frustrations.

Tantrums also can be a way to test rules and to see how far the child can push the parent.


No matter what you do to prevent tantrums, they do still happen. Here’s how to handle them:

Remember, a child who has tantrums isn’t “bad” — just needful of a parent’s loving help and understanding. Above all, remain calm and keep your sense of humor.

Seek professional help, starting with your child’s physician, if your child:

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