Three Reasons Toddlers Throw Tantrums and How to Short-Circuit Them

As much fun as toddlers are and as cute as they can be, toddlers have a really bad reputation and almost every mum approaches the toddler years with fear and trepidation. How bad will the ‘terrible twos’ be and when will they start. The reality is that the toddler years don’t need to be fraught with fights and tantrums – there are three main reasons that toddlers dig their heels in and how tantrums. With this insight, you will find you will short-circuit most tantrums.

  1. Overtired/ over stimulated – toddlers, like babies can easily become over stimulated. In this state, your toddler will become unplayable and very difficult. Tantrums become more evident and toddlers battle bedtime if they are over tired. The important thing is to keep to a regular day sleep routine – toddlers really need a day sleep until at least three years old (for many until they are even older). If your toddler misses his day sleep, bring bedtime forward to 6pm. Recognize overstimulation and don’t overstay your welcome at play dates and parties. Toddlers can only really manage 1 hour of socializing per year of their life before becoming over stimulated. This means a one year old can reasonably socialize happily for 1 hour; a two year old for two hours. If this social time is stretched, you will need to watch your toddler carefully as behaviours such as biting and tantrums may ensue.
  2. Frustration – toddlers understand language way before they can express themselves. Frequently tantrums are simply because your toddler thinks you are not understanding him. If your toddler is digging in his heels and starting to perform when you draw a boundary, use the ABC of managing toddler behaviour:
    • Acknowledge – acknowledge what your toddler wants so that he feels understood: “I know you want to stay on the swing now and not share it with Mary, and I would also want to stay on the swing if I were you, its fun”
    • Boundary – Be firm about boundaries that have to be instilled: “But we have to share – it’s the rules of this playground and you have had your turn.”
    • Choice – give a choice that your little one thinks he can control: “So you can’t stay on the swing but you can choose – do you want to go on the slide or go and feed the ducks?”
      Most toddlers once they feel understood and can control some element of the decision will settle and a tantrum will be averted
  3. “I want my way” – the toddler years are the time when your little ones independence and autonomy emerges and it is vital that he feels in control of some things. So pick your battles very carefully! If it is not a health and safety issue or if he is not going to hurt himself or someone else – drop the fight and let him have his way. Wearing pajamas to school is really not the end of the world.

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