The Truth about Toddlers and Tantrums

If you as a parent are able to identify what type of tantrum your child is having at a particular time, you will be better able and equipped to deal with the situation at hand.

There are 3 types of tantrums:

Emotional tantrums/breakdowns

Here, the child has a strong physical reaction or a non-verbal outburst. These tantrums usually start at around 18 months of age and peak at around two to two and a half years of age, and if handled correctly they should start fading out from three to four years of age. They are usually brought about by big emotions that the child cannot express, such as fear, sadness or anxiety. Something like the loss of a pet, moving to a new home or the birth of a new child can result in these uncontrollable meltdowns.

Situational tantrums

The child reacts to a situation. For example, having to sit still for a long period of time or a sibling grabbing a toy from them.

Mock tantrums – the master manipulation

Yes, toddlers can manipulate you. They know exactly which buttons to push and where to push, particularly if you are a parent that gives in or doesn’t follow through with consequences. Generally, these tantrums come about when a child doesn’t get their way and they know how to get their way by pushing your buttons.

Many parents get angry with their children because they throw tantrums when actually the parent is often responsible for the tantrum. As a parent, you need to start taking responsibility. If you are constantly rushing your child, or you expect your child to sit still in a queue for an hour, or you’re going to fancy restaurants and expect your child to sit through a three-course dinner, then it’s not fair to get upset when your toddler throws a tantrum.

If you are dealing with a lot of tantrums in your household, you need to start asking yourself these questions:

What is my part as the parent in this?

What type of tantrum is my child having?

How to identify an emotional tantrum from a mock tantrum. During an emotional tantrum, the physical expression is pretty severe – throwing up, shaking body, quivering lips, uncontrollable sobbing, shortness of breath. During a mock tantrum, the child may be looking for a reaction or checking before they continue.

In this case of a genuine emotional breakdown, it is your job as a parent to teach your child and guide them on how to express themselves. Yes, this is going to take a couple of years until they have the verbal and linguistic capabilities to do so, but it your job to lay down the foundation and teach them that emotional intelligence. With that being said, we do not try to do this in the eye of them storm. We simply stay calm and keep them safe during the turmoil. Once the tantrum has passed, in a quiet and connected moment, help our child to rehash what happened. In a story fashion, go through what happened, dropping in emotional language and thereby modeling the sentences and teaching your child how to do it better. Understand that you’re going to have to do this many many times, over a couple of years until your child has the capability to truly express themselves and how they feel.

When you start tuning in and getting present, it helps you to understand better. When your child throws a tantrum get excited, get intuitive, ask questions, examine them and really identify what is going on within your child. From that point forward you can start coming in with your strategies. There are many tools and tips to help you lessen the tantrums on a weekly or daily basis – we cannot eliminate tantrums completely, your child is a toddler and they are learning, it is all part of the package.