Four Toddler Frustration Moments

Every parent experiences the terrible twos. Here are four moments when your toddler will test your limits and how you should react


The “terrible twos” are an expected point of development for most children, a time when children are finding their voice, gaining mobility and striving for independence. While the mention of “terrible twos” is often met with a good natured chuckle or a look of all consuming fear from those parents now mercifully passed the “milestone”, those in the throws of toddler tantrums may feel alone in their experiences. “Terrible twos” is an entirely inappropriate description of the trials and tribulations of raising a toddler, especially when the fits don’t magically end upon the child’s third birthday.

Rebellion from toddlers can range from the somewhat expected tantrum/meltdowns to more severe acts such as violence or holding their breath. Almost all toddler issues revolve around their frustrations of not having more control over a situation, the inability to complete a task on their own or simply not being able to get their point across.

Common toddler rebellions include:


The tales of toddler tantrums are legendary, in fact, it almost seems like a rite of passage parents and children must get through together. Tantrums can be overwhelming for the parents trying to calm and reason with the toddler and for the child themselves, who is unable to control their emotions. Tantrums vary in length, severity and frequency and appropriate parental responses will vary also. It is important to ensure the child’s safety, that they are in a space they cannot injury themselves if they are thrashing around. In most cases, tantrums need to run their course and are over as quickly as they begin. Trying to reason with a toddler in the throws of a tantrum is often useless, however, it is important to talk to the child about the incident afterwards, especially with an older toddler.

Breath Holding

Perhaps the most extreme, and certainly most frightening, of all toddler rebellion, holding one’s breath is quite common during the toddler years. A child who holds their breath is not doing it for attention; rather it is a physical reaction to an event, most commonly frustration. Most breath-holding spells last less than a minute, though for a parent with an unconscious child it will feel much longer. While these spells generally do not pose any serious risk to the child, seizures can occur, therefore spells should be reported to your child’s doctor, especially if this is a new event or they suddenly become more frequent or severe.


“Use your words” is a phase uttered by most parents during the toddler years. As with most other acts of rebellion, a toddler who hits, bites, kicks, etc., may lack sufficient communication skills and is therefore letting out his/her frustration the only way they know how. It is of the upmost importance to explain to a child exhibiting this behaviour that it is unacceptable and to provide an explanation why.

Food or Sleep Strike

The willpower of a toddler can seem almost un-human especially where food and sleep are concerned. Breaking habits such as co-sleeping, the use of soothers or expanding the palate of picky eater are said to be easier before your child hits age two. Consistency is key, if you give into their demands once, the behavior will be that much harder to break.

Allowing your child to feel as though they have some control over the situation can help immensely. Try explaining upcoming changes beforehand.  For example, when eliminating a soother, some toddlers may benefit from being told in advance that it’s time to get rid of it, some may want to throw it away themselves.

Toddler rebellions, while stressful and at times terrifying, are a normal part of development.  As the child grows and learns appropriate communication techniques and coping mechanisms, rebellions taper off and finally disappear.  Parents can help ease the transition by exhibiting and reinforcing proper communication and remaining calm. 

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