Parents are often left confused as to why their toddler is so angry or upset.  Temper tantrums are common at this age.  Here are a few reasons why your child is throwing temper tantrums and what you can do about it.


1. Your toddler has gotten what they want this way in the past: Children learn and interact with and from their environment from the day they are born.  They learn through your emotions and behaviours how to get what they want.  Never give a child what they want during a temper tantrum.  Instead, stay calm, do not raise your voice and say, “I know you are sad, crying is ok, but throwing, hitting and kicking is not.  When you can use your words to tell me what you want we can try again.”  Or, “I know you want ice-cream, but crying and shouting do not mean you can have ice-cream.”

2. They don’t have the words to tell you: At this age, children are still learning how to express how they feel.  Try to set a good example always by talking to them about your own emotions in a calm and logical way.  For example, “I am feeling a little bit sad right now because I forgot to pick up dinner.”  Or, “I am feeling disappointed right now because I got in trouble at work.”  This teaches your child to talk calmly about how they feel.  During a temper tantrum lower your voice so that they have to lower theirs to hear you.  Also, say things like, “I can understand what you need better when you use your words. I don’t know what you need when you are shouting and crying.”  This requires patience as your toddler will take some time to get used to talking like this.

3. They are overstimulated and tired: Too much noise, activity or light can make your child irritable.  Turn down the lights and noise and gently talk to your toddler to see if this helps.

4. They are scared: Children and toddlers do not often know what is going to happen day by day and hour by hour.  Sometimes they might get upset if they are caught off guard by an activity or by a parent leaving.  In the morning and at night, let your child know what is going to happen that day so that they can mentally prepare.  At night let them know what will happen the next day.  This helps to create predictability and security.

5. They are playing: Your child’s play is like an adult’s work.  When they are in the middle of playing, they are often solving problems, innovating and relaxing.  Give your child a five-minute warning when you need them to stop playing.  Say something like, “In five minutes, I need you to clean up your toys so that we can go to grandma’s.”  If you can, remind them again when there is one minute left to play.  This way your child is mentally prepared to switch their attention to another task.


Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr Borschel:


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