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Combatting the Terrible Twos

Tantrums are very common in toddlers and pre-schoolers and are just one of the ways young children express their feelings as they begin to learn to make sense of the world around them.

What are tantrums?

Does screaming, crying, holding their breath, throwing themselves on the ground or running away sound familiar? These are just some of the behaviours you may encounter during a tantrum!

Tantrums are a normal part of growing up and describes those moments when your toddler becomes overwhelmed or loses control of their emotions and behaviour. Anger, frustration, fear and jealously are a few of the ‘big feelings’ toddlers struggle to deal with – particularly when they often don’t have the words to tell you what they are feeling.

Tantrum triggers

There are certain situations or ‘triggers’ that make it harder for toddlers to express and manage their feelings – and makes tantrums more likely to occur.

These can include:

  • Being stressed, hungry, tired or ill
  • Being overstimulated – for example, if there are lots of activities going on in a busy, noisy room
  • Being upset or confused at other children’s or grown-up’s reactions.

Tips for coping with tantrums

It is important to stay with your child during a tantrum and help them calm down.  Toddlers can become scared and may not be able to calm down by themselves or understand what is going on.

Your child will gradually learn to manage their own feelings and learn the behaviour that is expected from how you respond to their feelings and behaviour.

Tips for coping with tantrums include:

  • Try to remain calm and in command until they have calmed down
  • Take charge when you need to – try not to give in to unreasonable demands
  • Talk to them – let them know you understand how they feel
  • Reassure them that it will all be over soon
  • Be patient, stay close and wait the tantrum out.

Once the tantrum is over and everyone is calm again – remind your child you love them and then help them learn from the experience by helping them solve a problem or deal with any frustrations or disappointments.

Tips to help prevent tantrums

Tantrums are a normal part of a toddler’s development journey and there are always going to be times when everything gets ‘a little too much’ for them! But there are things you can do that may help prevent some of the outbursts of ‘big feelings’, including:

  • Learning your child’s tantrum triggers and watching for any tell-tale signs so you can avoid them
  • Making sure they get enough sleep and offering them regular snacks and drinks
  • Helping their speech and language development by spending time talking and reading to them – helping your toddler to communicate their feelings may reduce some of their frustrations
  • Keeping your decisions consistent, allowing your toddler to have some control over certain things, such as which toy to play with, and not always saying ‘no’ –even to reasonable requests.

Having to deal with tantrums can be stressful for both you and your toddler but remember your child will eventually learn to manage their feelings and the behaviour expected of them.

Discover how to help manage and prevent tantrums in our Combatting the Terrible Twos video.

If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour or any other issues, it is important that you contact your health care professional.


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