What Age for Tantrums in Toddlers?

Temper tantrums in toddlers are a natural part of childhood development and consists of emotional behavior as a way to get attention. Children begin having tantrums between 12 to 18 months old and usually stop such behavior when they are four. Tantrums occur because toddlers have not yet developed the skills needed to verbalize their thoughts or display their emotions in healthy ways. Parents and childcare providers help toddlers navigate this developmental stage by displaying patience and setting boundaries.

  1. One- to Two-Year-Old Toddlers

    • One- to two-year-old toddlers have not developed their verbal skills, so their tantrums are more pronounced and action based. Tiny tots become frustrated because no one seems to understand their needs and wants, so they act out by yelling, screaming, crying, throwing items and hitting. They want to exert their independence by doing things for themselves but get upset when they cannot accomplish their desired task. Tantrums usually stop when the adult finally understands what the child wants. Robert G. Harrington, a University of Kansas psychology professor, says arguing with the child and cajoling him only worsens tantrums.

    The Terrible Twos

    • Tantrums intensify at two years old, giving that age the dubious nickname "the terrible twos." This is an awkward developmental stage for children. Toddlers are learning to speak and use the toilet, eating a diverse diet and abandoning sippy cups and bottles. At this age, parents hear the word "no" a lot and experience acting-out behavior. Parents must learn to set limits, letting toddlers know that they have to follow a set of rules. The National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus suggests parents can counteract tantrums with distracting activities like making funny faces and taking toddlers to quiet places if the tantrums occur in public.

    Three- to Four-Year-Old Toddlers

    • Between three and four years old, tantrums decrease in number and severity because toddlers are less impulsive, and they express their needs and desires verbally because of improved language skills. Professor Harrington says four-year-old children have better motor skills, increasing their ability to take care of some needs without the aid of adults. Increased verbal skills help older toddlers better express their emotions without acting-out behavior.

    Importance of Consistency

    • Tantrums are a normal part of childhood development, so parents cannot prevent them in their children. They can, however, minimize tantrums by creating a consistent environment for their toddlers. The Mayo Clinic advises parents to maintain a regular schedule and stick to it. This includes setting regular time for meals, bedtime and naps. Run errands when children are not tired or hungry, two emotional states that trigger tantrums.

    Speech and Importance of Rules

    • Parents need to help children express their feeling in words, which means they may have to encourage toddlers to slow down when trying to speak. MedlinePlus says parents should stick to rules of behavior and not give in to tantrums just to limit the stressful situation. Children will eventually learn that they have to adhere to parental rules of behavior.

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