Tantrums: Why they happen and what to do about them

A temper tantrum is the emotional equivalent of a summer storm – sudden and sometimes fierce, but often over as quickly as it starts. One minute you and your child are enjoying your dinner in a restaurant, the next she’s whimpering, whining, and then screaming to go home. Two-year-olds are especially prone to such episodes.

Though you may worry that you’re raising a tyrant, take heart – at this age, it’s unlikely that your child is throwing a fit to be manipulative. More likely, she’s having a meltdown in response to frustration. Often, your 2-year-old’s language skills – or lack thereof – are to blame.

“Two-year-olds are beginning to understand more and more of the words they hear, yet their ability to articulate their feelings and needs is limited,” says Claire B. Kopp, professor of applied developmental psychology at California’s Claremont Graduate University. As a result, frustration builds when your child can’t express how she feels.

Other experts say shifting chemicals in your toddler’s brain may cause tantrums. Whatever the reason, temper tantrums are normal at this age, and your child will probably grow out of them sometime around the age of 3. As embarrassing as these tantrums might be, try to keep in mind that all parents have to deal with them.


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