After a long day at work, the last thing that you want to deal with is a stubborn toddler who is on the verge of melting down when you tell him that he can’t do what he wishes to do. Or if you are having a fun family outing and your little one suddenly plants herself on the ground and refuses to get up until she gets her way. While this type of behaviour is not uncommon, it can be very frustrating for parents to deal with.
Pamela See, an educational and developmental psychologist at Th!nk Psychological Services, shares tips on how you can best manage your stubborn toddler without them melting down and kicking up a big fuss.
Mummyfique: Is there a particular age that toddlers start throwing tantrums and is it normal for them to do so?
Pamela: There is no specific age a child would start throwing a tantrum. Every child is different. It starts from a couple of months old for some children and at one or two years old for others. Having a tantrum is absolutely normal and common for a child.
Tantrums are commonly associated with children who are two years old because a lot of developmental changes happen during that period. For example, most children start to speak in short sentences as well as undergo emotional, social and intellectual changes at two years old. However, they may not be able to communicate as clearly as they like or understand the emotional changes they are going through, therefore this could cause frustration and this leads to tantrums.
What are some of the reasons toddlers will burst out into tantrums?
Children can start having tantrums for a variety of reasons including the following:
- When they not aware of the expectations of the environment, especially when there are disruptions to life as they know it, such as relocation, family disputes, changing schools, parents separating and experiencing grief.
- When they do not get their need or wants met or heard.
- When they have difficulty expressing or communicating how they feel or what they want.
- When they have an inherent learning difficulty including giftedness, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
When dealing with a toddler who is melting down, how should parents respond to best manage the situation?
- Always keep calm and never lose your cool as doing so will only elevate your child’s tantrum. Children often model their parent’s behaviours so staying calm will help your child to calm down faster. Always model positive behaviours.
- Be aware of the situations that will trigger your child’s tantrum and intervene before he or she gets upset.
- Be consistent in the way you manage your child each time he or she has a tantrum, whether it is at home or in a public place so that they know that their behaviour is not acceptable and a tantrum will not get them what they want. Though it may feel embarrassing when they throw a tantrum in a public, take heart that they feel safe enough to express how they are feeling.
- Though it is not a bad thing to feel the emotions that they are experiencing, if they express them in an unacceptable manner such as kicking, throwing or hitting things, these behaviours should be addressed and your child may need some help learning methods to regulate their behaviours.
Is there an age where the tantrums will stop and any other advice for parents who are dealing with toddlers who are throwing tantrums?
There isn’t a specific age as every child is different. A child’s emotional well-being is also dependent on their environment and the positive emotional regulation that adults model to their children. What’s more important is to establish the reasons and triggers that lead to why your toddler throws a tantrum. By making these observations it will be easier to come up with strategies that will help you manage your toddler better the next time he or she breaks down.
Pamela See is a registered educational and developmental psychologist at Th!nk Psychological Services and has extensive experience working with children with autism and other learning difficulties in Australia and Singapore. She also regularly conducts workshops for parents and teachers on topics such as challenging behaviours and managing students with learning and developmental difficulties.