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The two reasons for temper tantrums

The two reasons for temper tantrums

Baby boomers and some Gen X people were raised differently than children today. A crying child was more likely to get a sharp slap on the rump rather than an understanding mother trying to understand. We’ve come a long way since then but figuring out why your child is crying can still leave even the most gentle of parents perplexed. Toddlers can’t express themselves well enough to tell us what’s wrong at this stage in their lives, which is why many tantrums start in the first place.

While some are obvious, such as when you didn't let him eat that already-been-licked lifesaver off the store floor, some are a little more mysterious. Here are just a few of them.

Physical issues

These actually account for a great many tantrums. We all know that babies and toddlers cry when they need their diaper changed or they’re hungry. That’s fairly easy to decode. However they can’t tell us if they have an earache and the first clue to a stomach ache is often physical rather than explanatory.

Growth is another physical problem that can lead to tantrums. Your toddler's body is constantly growing and developing, which can lead to things as complex as pain, or as simple as not being able to squish behind the couch anymore.

This can also lead to unexpected problem for parents, when a toddler is suddenly able to reach surfaces that were once safe to put dangerous items up on.

If your toddler seems to be throwing fits for no specific reason, take a good look at their bodies and make sure it isn't physical in nature.

Emotional issues

When a baby is born they are the center of attention. They need fed, changed and otherwise attended to all hours of the day and night. When a child reaches toddlerhood they don’t require as much attention—but they still want it. After all, who wouldn't? Unfortunately, they also don’t understand why they aren’t getting your undivided attention 100% of the time. This can lead to separation anxiety problems. Even if that separation is nothing more than the bathroom door.

Fear is another emotional issue a toddler can feel but often not explain. What's scary to a child and scary to an adult are often completely different, and many three-year-olds are not interested in your reassurance that Santa isn't going to hurt them.

Frustration and other emotions can also add a lot to tantrums. No one likes to be bossed around all day long, and when you live with two big people who don't want you to play with the stove or insist you stop playing at the park and go home, it can lead to a huge well of emotions.

Toddlers cry for a lot of reasons. Some of these are perfectly reasonable, and other's not so much. Understanding why toddlers have tantrums are a good step in how we handle them, but they aren't the only thing you can do.

You can reduce the number of tantrums that happen in the first place by not taking your toddler out when you know they are hungry or tired. It's hard to make good decisions when you aren't feeling your best, and even grown adults can get “hangry” when they're starving and stressed.

When your child does have a tantrum, reasoning with them during the episode itself isn't going to help. Most toddlers don't have the capacity to listen at this time, even if they wanted to. Your best bet is to remove them from the situation until they can calm down.

Helping your child verbalize their emotions can also help. If you can see a tantrum rising because you won't give them more cookies, you can verbalize it for them by saying something like, “I can see you're feeling frustrated because you want more cookies.”

Tantrums are a part of growing up, but getting spanked for it no longer has to be. With a little love and careful handling, we can help guide young children through the first big gusts of emotion by helping them understand the feelings inside them—and making sure it isn't pain they're responding to also.

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