Why do toddlers have temper tantrums?

Toddlers have temper tantrums because they are expressing their anger. The trick is to label the feelings ("you really are angry!"--ie, put words to the feelings) and then talk about what they are angry about. The keys are: Listen and put words to feelings, and talk!

Alan Greene, MD
Many of the meltdowns children experience between about 9 and 30 months old arise from the frustration of not being able to communicate. Their ideas far outstrip their language skills. The "terrible twos" are less terrible the more children learn how to get across their intense and conflicting thoughts. Baby signs and tools like the KidGlyphs app are a wonderful way to do this.
Toddlers’ brain development is such that their ability to control their behavior, control and understand their feelings, and use logic are barely starting to emerge. We might see our toddler acting patiently one day and screaming, hitting, and acting like Jack Daniels after an all-night whiskey bender the next.

Naturally, this behavior needs to be controlled -- and the best way to get a handle on it is to understand your toddler’s frame of mind.
Imagine yourself as a two-year-old. Remember how small and powerless and dependent it feels. Being a toddler is hard, mostly because they are:

  •  Unable to make their needs known most of the time
  •  Unable to make their body do things that others around them do easily
  •  Unable to make grown-ups understand what they need to say
  •  Needing help with almost everything
  •  Being overpowered by their emotions several times a day

Continue Learning about Tantrums & Toddlers

How can distractions be useful in preventing a toddler's meltdown?
Discovery HealthDiscovery Health
In this video from the Discovery Health show "Baby Madness," Dr. Christina Johns suggests keeping to...
More Answers
What is the best way to curb my child's tantrums and meltdowns?
Michele BorbaMichele Borba
Here is a simple behavior makeover to stop those annoying kid tantrums and meltdowns:   1. Your best...
More Answers
How can I get my young child to stop screaming?
Heather Wittenberg, PhDHeather Wittenberg, PhD
Little kids need to be able to make noise, and we need to be able to hear ourselves think (once in a...
More Answers
What Are Some Proven Techniques for Preventing Tantrums?
What Are Some Proven Techniques for Preventing Tantrums?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.