Tantrum Triggers: What Sets Off Your Toddler

Get ahead of your toddler’s tantrums by recognizing these common triggers


They are called the Terrible Twos for a reason, and taking full advantage of alliteration, temper tantrums have a lot to do with that. Terrible Two Temper Tantrums… now that’s a mouth full. There is nothing worse than being out and about, running your errands, when your little guy decides he has had enough and lets loose. Screaming, kicking, hitting, crying, sobbing: suddenly you feel every eye in the shopping mall zoning in on you and your once adorable, now fuming, toddler!

Relax! While it may be hard to remember in the moment, it may help to know that tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development and should be expected from 1-3 years of age. One in five 2-year-olds will actually have two or more tantrums a day. So, knowing that tantrums are common and are likely to occur regularly, what can you do to keep them to a minimum?

Changes In Routine

Most children are very dependent on their routine: they get up a certain time, have lunch at the same time every day, play with their toys, etc. They rely heavily on their routine, and changes in the routine can trigger a tantrum. Try to stick to a daily routine as firmly as possible. If a change has to occur, ensure that your toddler is well rested and happy: think an extra nap, their favourite toy and, if all else fails, a quiet place to calm down.

“Me” Syndrome

 If you have a pet, another child or even a special visitor, your toddler may begin to suffer from “me” syndrome. In his mind, he is the centre of the world and should be treated accordingly. Obviously, this is not the case and when your toddler sees someone (or something) else receiving your attention, this may trigger a tantrum. The best way to avoid this is to encourage your child to play independently well before any tantrums occur. This way, he will be comfortable playing trains while you enjoy coffee with your neighbour!

When Words Fail Them

Toddlers are at a difficult age during the Terrible Twos; they know how to speak but may not have an extensive enough vocabulary to actually express what it is they are feeling. Taking their thoughts and translating them into words is still difficult and this inability to express themselves can turn into a serious tantrum trigger. Try to anticipate your child’s needs as best you can and learn from previous outbursts: if you toddler gets fussy every time you drive in the car, have games, music and toys to entertain her on long drives.

“Now” Syndrome

“Now” syndrome stems from a toddler’s desire to have everything they want, right when they want it. This is a tough one, because, as adults, we know that waiting patiently is a part of life. When delayed gratification is the cause of your toddler’s tantrum, let them get it out of their system and wait until they have calmed down to tell them why being patient is so important.

Physically Frustrated And Exhausted

If you have ever had a toddler you know how curious they are about anything and everything around them. The world is a new and exciting place and they want to take it all in. Unfortunately, they are limited by their physical abilities; they can’t possibly manage to do everything they want to do before (a) they can’t reach/turn/touch something or (b) they completely exhaust themselves. In order to foster independence while also avoiding the big “T”, try to help your toddler overcome these obstacles on their own. Instead of offering them a boost, make sure there is a stool around that they can safely use.

 Tantrums are a natural part of every child’s development. They are not a reflection on your abilities as a parent, nor is your toddler doing it on purpose to push your buttons. So when a tantrum occurs (and even with our awesome tips, they will occur), take a deep breath, calm yourself down first and then tackle the task of calming down your little guy or girl.

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