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The Early Years: Toddler temper tantrums

If you have spent any time around a toddler you have undoubtedly seen a temper tantrum, but all children's tantrums do not look the same. Some children may yell, scream, cry, kick, bite, hit, throw things, while others may not make any noise and just refuse to do anything.  Understanding how a toddler's mind works may help us better understand why these tantrums occur, as well as give us a better idea of how to deal with this behavior.

Tantrums usually begin between 12-18 months, when toddlers are beginning to understand that the world is bigger than themselves. They are starting to separate themselves from important people and they're beginning to develop memories of past events. Remembering what happened in the past, helps them remember what they want now.

For example, your toddler had a cookie yesterday, and greatly enjoyed it. She asks you for a cookie, not understanding that there are good and bad times to have a cookie.  Every time you tell her no, frustration builds and the likelihood of a tantrum increases.  

Tantrums are most likely to occur when your child is tired and/or hungry. Knowing this, parents and caretakers should do their best to keep children's sleeping and eating routine as normal as possible. You know your child's threshold for stimulation and how much she can handle. If you need to go to Duluth with your child to do some shopping, make sure she is well fed and rested, and carefully plan how many stops you'll need to make. Some children cannot handle the crowds, store lighting, being confined to a cart, or restrictions from touching things they see for long periods of time. Watch your child for signs that she have had it. All children will show signs that they are getting frustrated. For example, kids may become cranky, clingy, whiny, irritated, or rambunctious. When you see these signs, adjust as needed. If you ignore their signs, you are likely to see a temper tantrum.

There are ways we can respond to these tantrums. Look for my tips on this topic next time.

Deb Archer is a licensed teacher and family educator. She owns Kick Start Preschool in Two Harbors.