For health's sake · Temper tantrums

Dealing with toddler temper tantrums is a rite of passage for every parent. They’re unnerving and frustrating for you, and part of growing up for your kiddo. You want to help, but you also don’t want to reinforce this type of behavior. So, what should you do?

We discussed reasons for temper tantrums and tips for managing – and preventing – outbursts with pediatrician Jessica Najarian-Bell on the For Health’s Sake podcast.

“When we look at toddlers, a big cause [for tantrums] is that inner conflict they feel. They want to have this independence. They want to express themselves. And when they’re not able to, they get frustrated. But they also really crave that parent’s attention,” says Dr. Jessica.

Tantrums are normal in children between ages 1 to 4, and usually are a response to not getting what they want or need. Your toddler may want attention, that shiny red fire engine toy or to skip their bath. They may need a nap or something to eat.

Dr. Jessica says that parents can set themselves up for success by knowing their toddler’s tantrum triggers and being prepared. Sometimes offering a choice, a distraction or a snack is all it takes to avoid a major meltdown.

Listen to the podcast for more from Dr. Jessica on topics such as:

  • Why kids have tantrums
  • Ways to avoid tantrums
  • What to do during and after a tantrum
  • Why silently singing the ABC song can help

When to talk to a pediatrician about your child’s tantrums

If your toddler’s tantrums are causing you to worry, Dr. Jessica suggests talking to your child’s doctor. She says, “It’s always good to get another perspective.”

In particular, parents should bring up behaviors such as violent outbursts that last longer than 15 minutes, harmful behavior such as holding their breath, and worsening tantrums after age 4. It’s also worth discussing your child’s tantrums if they are accompanied by high levels of anxiety or physical symptoms like tummy aches or headaches.