You can be the most understanding, most tolerant parent in the world...until your toddler throws a temper tantrum. A well-executed toddler tantrum — in public, of course — can throw even the most patient person in the world off course, especially if it’s a tantrum thrown for no reason.
Then again, most tantrums were thrown with a reason. This reason may seem petty or irrational for a grownup like you, but remember that your child is not yet mature enough to deal with big emotions. No matter how frustrating, it helps to listen and actually understand why your toddler is crying and kicking on the floor.
Every child is different. Some very rarely throw tantrums, while some throw them quite often. And there are also many potential reasons and variables that can make your toddler burst. But to help you narrow down the possibilities, here’s a list of 8 common temper tantrum triggers.
When your toddler does an activity that is too advanced for their developmental stage, they may get frustrated, which is a common temper tantrum trigger. For example, a board game might require advanced vocabulary, or a particular sports might require the coordination and dexterity of an older child.
Prevent the occurrence of tantrums by encouraging your toddler to play activities and games that are designed for their age. It will also help to gently talk to your toddler and explain to them that they will develop more skills as they grow older.
2. Too little stimulation
Boredom is real for toddlers! When your toddler feels bored and loses interest in the activities that they are doing, they get fidgety and might throw a temper tantrum. This often happens when your toddler is stuck at home with nothing new to do. To prevent this, take your toddler out for a walk or a drive for a change in scenery.
If lack of stimulation triggers temper tantrums, overstimulation can result in the same, too. Too much stimulation causes your toddler to feel tired and stressed out, and these overwhelming feelings can lead to tantrums, even meltdowns. Avoid this by observing the signs of overstimulation and stopping all stimulating activities when they start getting tired and sleepy.
Hunger should be an obvious reason why your toddler is throwing a tantrum, but when you’re too busy, hunger cues and feeding schedules can be easy to overlook. Your toddler should not deal with hunger or the anxiety of not being fed yet, so always prioritize meal schedules and plans. Don’t forget to pack snacks when you’re out and about.
5. Sudden changes
Babies and little toddlers are creatures of habit and thrive on consistent schedules and routines. This is why it is very important to follow your routines, such as your bedtime rituals. When there are sudden changes to these routines, your toddler can feel anxious and stressed out. Avoid this by managing your time well.
If changes are unavoidable, orient your child adequately. It’s also a good idea to teach life skills to your toddler, like making their bed or wearing your shoes, to minimize daily stress.
If you think there’s no apparent reason behind your toddler’s tantrum — they are following a consistent routine, they are receiving just enough stimulation, they are not feeling tired or hungry — inspect more closely. They might be in pain or are feeling ill. Observe obvious signs like a raised temperature, contorted facial expressions, and awkward body positions. Take them to the doctor if you think they are in pain.
7. Fear of being alone
Aside from pain, what’s causing your toddler’s tantrum might simply be fear. It’s not necessarily a fear of something big, and it’s not necessarily a kind of phobia. It might be something as mundane as the fear of being alone when you leave them at the daycare. Prevent tantrums by talking to your child and saying that you will be back at a specific time.
8. Not enough attention
Finally, before you look for complicated toddler tantrum triggers, perhaps the reason is something as straightforward as not giving enough attention to your toddler. Your child wants your attention, and it’s not a negative thing — it’s just the way toddlers are made. Talk to your child all the time, and if you are busy with something else, tell them that you can play afterwards. Meanwhile, offer something else to distract them with, like a toy or a book.
Tantrums are very common among toddlers, and if yours throw ones often, it does not mean that they have an attitude problem or are growing up spoiled. It simply means that they are too young to handle big emotions like frustration, fatigue, and loneliness. Pay closer attention to their cues and observe the reasons that trigger their outbursts.