Toddlers have no self-regulation. Their emotions can swing like a pendulum.
One moment my toddler asked for an apple and I went to get an apple. The next moment, she screamed “NO APPLE” and blamed you for bringing it over while kicking, screaming, pounding on the floor or throwing things.
A tantrum is not a pretty sight. It can happen at home, in a restaurant, in a toy store, etc. When it happens in a public place, a toddler’s tantrum can be both embarrassing and stressful for the parents.
Despite this, I still want to say this out loud:
I love toddler tantrums and you, as a parent, should, too.
Baby’s Brain Development
Some people will probably say that I’m crazy. But no, I’m not.
I love toddler tantrums because they are actually good for my kid.
If handled properly, tantrums are good for a young child’s brain development.
When babies are born, their brains are not yet well developed.
Developing a baby’s brain is in some way akin to building a house. First, there is the genetic makeup. Genetics determines a basic plan for a child’s brain development. It acts as a blueprint for the brain’s architecture. Then there is life experience as the construction material.
The initial life experience when the brain begins to develop can have a profound influence on the brain’s architecture.
Just as using adequate and quality foundation material can build a good foundation in a house, having adequate and quality initial life experience allows good developmental foundation to form in a baby’s brain.
Emotion regulation is a child’s effort to manage, inhibit, enhance or modulate emotions. The ability to self-regulate lays the groundwork for further brain development.
Studies show that children who can master emotion regulation throw fewer tantrums, recover faster when they have fits, form better friendships and exhibit less behavioral problems. As they grow up, they also tend to do better in school and lead more satisfied lives in adulthood.
Helping children learn to self-regulate is, perhaps, parents’ most important job and temper tantrums are golden opportunities to do so.
When we interact with our kids during their tantrums, we are directly teaching them how to deal with big feelings and how to handle difficulties in life.
This is why parents should not discourage this age-appropriate behavior.
Temper tantrums are the result of our kids trying to assert their independence after the realization that we are separate individuals, but they lack the way to do so. Tantrums are their outlets until they learn to express their needs verbally and calmly.
A temper tantrum doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience if we can remind ourselves that it is an opportunity for the child to acquire new skills.
The best thing we can do while handling a tantrum is to stay calm.
By being in control of our own emotion, we show our children how they can do it.
I usually imagine how I want my toddler to handle her current frustration and then do exactly that myself.
With practice and guidance, toddlers can gradually learn to soothe themselves.
Use this opportunity to teach them how to properly express their feelings without being destructive (increase self-control), how to describe their needs using words (improve vocabulary) and how to solve a problem in a different way (promote critical thinking). All these are benefits of having a tantrum.
So don’t hate your toddler’s tantrums.
They may be irritating, but you can channel them into valuable experience for your child’s development.
I’ve learned to love tantrums, and I am sure you can too.
For most effective ways to deal with tantrums and help our children grow, check out my book Turning Tantrums Into Triumphs – Step-By-Step Guide To Stopping Temper Tantrums.
Child, N. S. C. o. t. D., 2007. The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture: Working Paper No.5. http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/reports_and_working_papers/working_papers/wp5/ ↩
Johnson, J. S. & Newport, E. L., 1989. Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language. Cognitive Psychology. Volume 21, Issue 1, p. 60–99. ↩
Schore, A. N., 1999. Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. s.l.:s.n. ↩