Toddler tantrums - Time to worry

Tantrums are very common among toddlers. They are part of their growth and development. As the child grows, he/she gain control over emotions and can easily express the feeling instead of throwing tantrums.


But many a times it is observed that child behaves in an abnormal manner. There is no control on emotions and there is no consistency in the behaviour. Parents are then advised to stay calm and give some time to the kids. They are told to wait and let their kids adjust in the day care or preschool.

But...Till what extent?  What’s the maximum limit? How can I find my toddler has crossed the limits?

Parents often talk to me about their toddler’s tantrums and ask if there is certain maximum limit. How can they find out that their child’s frequent and unpredictable tantrums are not normal?

According to one study conducted on toddlers of 3-6 years of age at Washington University School of Medicine, there are 4 types of toddler tantrums

1. Aggressive-destructive (kicking others, hitting others, throwing objects, breaking objects)
2. Self-injurious (hitting self, head banging, holding breath, biting self)
3. Non-destructive aggression (non-directed kicking, stamping feet, hitting wall)
4. Oral aggression (biting others, spitting on others).

Occasional temper tantrums of your toddler when he/she feels hungry or tired are normal and acceptable. But if your child's overall personality has turned into tantrum pattern, it time for you to pay attention.

Here are few warning signs which are alarming when dealing with your toddler’s tantrums.

1. If your child has a habit of hurting himself/herself, it can be the sign of depression. Self injurious tantrums like scratching till the skin bleeds, head banging on the wall, biting oneself hard or holding breath can be dangerous and is a sign of psychological diseases.

2. If your child’s aggression ends up showing frustration towards caretakers or on siblings by hitting them or on toys by trying to destroy them, your child may have, ADHD, oppositional-defiant disorder, depression or any other disruptive disorder.

3. Frequency of tantrums is also one of the major warning sign. Be a good observer and if time allows make note of your toddler’s tantrums. Check if the same thing is repeated again and again in spite of the same environment. Sometimes it is okay to have 10 tantrums in a day but if happens repeatedly, your child have higher risk of ADHD and other disruptive disorders.

4. A toddler gets normal within 15 minutes or less after throwing a tantrum. When a tantrum typically takes more than 25 minutes to last, it is a red flag situation.

5. Many toddlers are incapable of getting normal after the tantrum and seek attention for external help. They get normal only when they are offered with a bribe or a treat. Pay attention to your lad’s behaviour and talk to him/her calmly while dealing with the situation. 3 years age is a good age to learn and behave calm in difficult situation. Such toddlers have high risk of having ADHD.


Your doctor can find the root cause of your toddler. Sometime a small temporary impairment in hearing, vision may add to the tantrums. Many a time’s a chronic illness or a learning disability can make kids more likely to have tantrums



Try to avoid the tantrums by finding the triggers. Below are some ideas that may help fighting your toddler’s tantrums battle:

  • Remain calm.
  • Do not overdo with your kid. Know their limits.
  • Meditate the temper
  • Observe and write down every time your child throws a temper.
  • Distract your munchkin
  • Don’t react or yell


  • Give them choice and some control over little things.
  • Keep tantrum triggers out of sight and out of reach.
  • Engage them in creative work
  • Give of positive attention in the form of rewards

How can I measure my toddler’s tantrums?

There are no specific guidelines for measuring tantrums. But you can measure whether your child’s tantrums are abnormal or not with the help of the Temper Tantrum Scaledeveloped by Lauren Wakschlag of Northwestern University in Chicago, which identifies normal tantrum behaviours and duration.

Remember, toddler tantrums usually are not the cause for concern. They generally fade with age and time. As the child grows, he/she learns to gain self control. They learn to face and deal with the situation, they learn to express their emotions in an acceptable manner and they learn to and cope with frustration. If they are less frustrated, they become more aware and will have control over their emotion and in a way toddlers and parents will feel happy. But sometimes there are certain disorders which may affect your lad’s emotions. Don’t lose hope and focus on finding the way. Call the doctor and get it treated.

Shefali Singh

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