My 18-month-old has started throwing the worst tantrums. Every time she doesn’t get what she wants she throws herself down on the floor and screams bloody murder. What’s going on; I thought tantrums only started at two?
Cara Blackie (educational psychologist) responds:
Often temper tantrums can start before the “terrible twos” and as a result what you are experiencing with your daughter is fairly normal. The difficulty with children around this age is that they become very frustrated by what they can and cannot do. At 18 months toddlers want to explore and do many things, but they are unable to communicate effectively in terms of expressing their feelings and what may be upsetting or annoying them. So toddlers, even young ones, often throw a tantrum to try to express the frustration they are feeling inside.
Tantrums can be used as a manipulative tool or they could be a way for a toddler to show that they need love and attention. It sounds like your daughter is using these tantrums as a way to possibly manipulate you into giving her something that she wants.
Children will try very hard to push their parents’ buttons and once they feel they can change their parents’ minds, they will continue to use tantrums to get what they want. It can be very difficult for you to stay calm when your daughter is kicking and screaming but try just to let your daughter blow off some steam. It can often help to hold your daughter firmly and talk to her softly about how she may be feeling.
Many think that it helps to walk away from your child when she’s throwing a tantrum, but this is really unhelpful. This will only frustrate your daughter more as she is once again unable to communicate to you what she is feeling.