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The Terrible Twos & Toddler Tantrums – What’s up with it!

baby-215867_640Heard of the Terrible Twos? Most parents expect a change in behaviour in their child by around their 2nd birthday, however, in most toddlers you’d find that tantrums are common anywhere between 1-4 years.

Toddler tantrums are fairly common and at some point you will find yourself with your mini-you in a complete face off! Though that sounds funny on print, it really isn’t. Especially when it starts to become a habit, one that can take place anywhere! Nevertheless, temper tantrums in toddlers are a natural part of growing up and one that they will outgrow eventually.

Toddler temper and tantrums can be particularly trying. Especially when you are unsure of why they happen and if their frequency is high, it can put you on the edge. Remember though, your toddler is small, and he is going through a series of developmental stages and can go through times when he is feeling frustrated.

I remember this one time when Junior was small, he had a train that went forward on the tracks. Now this train didn’t really go backwards. Well, Junior wanted it to and no matter how much I explained it to him, he still didn’t understand. If you really look at it, its natural; he needed the train to go backwards and it just wouldn’t! Frustration kicked in and he had a full blown meltdown which ended up in tears and a very tired toddler who went to sleep empty stomach and still crying in his sleep.

At around the age of two our children have an enormous explosion of brain development. With this development comes increased independence and personal preferences. However our young children still have a limited understanding of what is going on in the world around them and are challenged and confused by the emotions they feel. Their lack of understanding means, they have no idea why you ask them to do something that they clearly don’t want to do!

The main reasons for toddler tantrums are as follows:

  • Limited Vocabulary – the fact that they have limited language skills or a limited vocabulary means that they are unable to fully express themselves. So whether they are tired (and sometimes they really don’t know it themselves!) to whether they are trying to explain what they want can bring about a tantrum. If your little one finds that you are unable to understand what he is saying or what he means to say, you are likely to have a very frustrated and angry little toddler in your hands.
  • Limited physical abilities – as your child grows up he may find that there are things that he is unable to do that he may very well like to. These include things you may be not allowing him to do due to safety reasons. Whether is he’s playing with a toy or simply trying to do something by himself and he’s unable to do it, you’ll find that frustration kicks in and soon the temper follows.
  • The need to assert independence – As your ‘little person’ develops you will find that he is more aware of himself; his wants, needs and desires. He tries to assert his independence by making decisions. While this is a part of his development, it may be difficult to just give into everything he wants to do. Safety places a major role and there are those times we as parents just can’t let them make their own decisions. It’s easier to let them decide which flavor of ice cream they want and not so easy to let them chose to skip a nap. Have you ever come across a time when your little one wanted to wear his sandals on a formal night out? It’s not that they chose to be ‘difficult’ or throw a tantrum. They are simply trying to assert their will and when you don’t…. well you know where it ends up!
  • Feeling a lack of control – Your toddler is probably feeling frustrated, misunderstood, or frightened. The main reason that children become unglued over seemingly small events is that developmentally they aren’t able to handle the circumstances they find themselves in. Take the incident I mentioned about the train with Junior, not being able to understand that that particular train is not made to go backward and his lack of being able to control it causes frustration and hence a tantrum.
  • Having either too few or too many limits – Remember, your toddler hasn’t begun to develop the concepts of patience, limits, or compromise yet. His lack of being able to control situations will end up with feelings of frustration. Taking into account your child’s temperament and the environment he is in, you will have to play it by ear and handle the situations.
  • Hunger, fatigue, overstimulation and boredom – these are all things that can very easily push anyone to the edge and with a ‘little person’, behavior just amplifies. Make sure your toddler has his naps, his meals even if it is an on-the-go shake and keep him occupied with age appropriate toys to help prevent frustration.


Whether your toddler has his tantrums in public or at home in private, tantrums are not about seeking attention or embarrassing you. It’s simply a means of expressing frustration. When dealing with tantrums make sure you do not bribe or offer incentives to your little one to stop their meltdown – if you do, these tantrums are likely to continue as they grow up. If you are wondering about the best ways of dealing with tantrums, do check my next post on how to deal with temper tantrums.

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