Your Toddler's Temper Tantrum Can Be Decoded


toddler temper tantrumI believe there's a show on cable somewhere that follows around people with really bad jobs and films them for our entertainment. Because who doesn't like to watch men in sewer lines with rats crawling over their faces? But one job you won't see on reality television is the one where scientists listen to recordings of toddler's temper tantrums and attempt to analyze their findings. Mostly because we all would change the channel faster than when that Playboy Club show was assaulting our senses.

Yet, these people do exist and they do have some news for those of us who are interested in the toddler tantrum and how to stop it.

Apparently temper tantrums have patterns. Who knew? The scientists who listened to hundreds of hours of taped tantrums, that's who. While we may see a kid getting angry and then eventually melting into tears, the sadness and anger actually flow together and occur at the same time. Certain sounds indicate anger, while others indicate sadness. Once we can recognize the anger sounds (hint: the yelling and kicking), we can take action. Which is, in fact, no action.

Scientists say the best way to stop a toddler tantrum is to get past the "anger" portion and onto the sadness. Because a sad child will want comfort and will reach out, while an angry child may punch you in the face. Unfortunately the way past the anger stage is to do absolutely nothing. Which can be incredibly challenging when you just want the screaming and yelling to stop. But asking your child what she wants, or asking her anything, or making suggestions during the anger only prolongs that portion of the tantrum. So back up and keep backing up until she's ready for that hug.

Tantrums are horrible, aren't they? Still, this information about doing nothing should (in theory) give a parent some sense of control in recognizing where Jr. is at in that tantrum stage. If nothing else, maybe if we spread this information far and wide, we will stop getting so many angry looks when we're in public and our child is in the anger stage and we just walk away and pretend he belongs to someone else. You know, if you would do that. Which you totally wouldn't, right? Ahem.

Do you think this new information about tantrums will help you?


Image via Mel B./Flickr

discipline, learning, tantrums


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comf comf

It's sad that majority of people don't have common sense and need scientific studies to help them parent. Follow your instincts. When you are angry do you want to talk? No! You just want to yell and be mad for awhile!

orang... orangetree

Seems to me scientist are trying to prove what generations of moms already know

Melis... Melissa042807

Um, I figured out when I was a 15 year old babysitter that the best way to "stop" a tantrum was to walk away from the kid and say "Have fun with that, let me know when you're done." I only intervene if the kid is in danger of physical harm or is harming property. Otherwise, I let 'em scream. 

Works pretty well with my 2 year old too. "Okay, let Mommy know when you're done" and walk away. I can tell when he gets past being angry and as soon as I hold out my arms and say "Are you ready?" he comes running for a hug. If we're in public we remove him from the situation until he's past the angry stage, and then we talk and he's generally well behaved after that. He knows tantrums don't get him the things he wants. 

nonmember avatar Shannon

I already had this figured out with my son. If he is having a tantrum, we put him on our stairs and tell him to finish his tantrum there. Then after a little bit, he comes crying to me and wants a hug, and I give him one. I am really interested in the concept presented in the article that this could help them identify developmental delays in children whose tantrums don't follow that pattern.

nonmember avatar Molly

Well, finding this helpful will probably make me a moron in the eyes of the other mothers who have commented. I've tried everything with my tantrum-obsessed toddler, including this method...this makes me think maybe I'm just not waiting it out long enough.

nonmember avatar shane

I read this article, the NPR blog article it links to, and the abstract of the actual study and nowhere am I finding the bit about developmental delays. Where did you see that?

nonmember avatar HS

No, this finding doesn't help me at all. I know MY child and I know how to handle HIS tantrums. I can tell one type of tantrum from another (i.e. I want thaaaaat vs I'm tirrred) because I know MY child. If a parent needs a scientist to tell them how to decipher their child, they're not doing a very good parenting job and need to reevaluate their relationship with their child. Hence the reason my son's tantrums are few and far between and when they do happen, we're able to work TOGETHER to resolve it.

Princ... PrinceMomma486

I have three daughters and my youngest by far has had the worst tantrums yet. I found this 'secret' out with my middle daughter. Surprisingly enough, my oldest didnt really show much in the tantrum field...she was an only child during her 'terrible two' stage, and it wasnt as bad compared to having another child in the mix. I don't think its sad that scientists do studies like this, sometimes parents really don't know what to do in these frustrating situations. We dont like seeing our children hurt, or angry, or sad...its just as frustrating for the parents as is for the children.

Eques... EquestrianMom

Wow, we needed a study to know this? LOL! I always told my son he could be upset as long as he needed, when he was done being mad we could talk. I'd carry him to his room, and when he was done being mad he'd come and tell me why he was upset and we'd discuss it. Easy peasy! He went to his room so I didn't have to hear the wailing, screaming, angry part of tantrums as well, and he'd come back sniffling and telling me how sad he was that x happened. Works on all the youngsters I have over! LOL!

nonmember avatar Tiffany

OK, I have to say that while many of you might have meant well, or were just looking for a pat on the back, you were kind of smug with the "well, DUH, what kind of an IDIOT doesn't know THAT?!"

And you could tell by the responses of some of the people who commented.

Come on guys, this is a site to help each other become better parents, not show off and put each other down - chill out.

To that point, each kid IS different. And, depending on where they are developmentally, they don't necessarily follow this pattern YET. My kid has the two kinds of tantrums, and not often, but in May was his first of the 'holy crap I'm walking away, let me know when you're done' kind.

Sometimes it's easy to figure your kid out, sometimes it's not. My best friend's kid is much harder to figure out and sometimes that means there are other factors (developmentally, even as mild as "mommy I have a tummy ache you can't see, and I can't tell you about").

So, in other words, ANY idea helps to at least file away for everyone as "hmmm, it's worth considering to see if it could help with my kid", and if it's news to someone - great! And if it's not news to you than whoop-tee-doooo. Hopefully everyone else will show more grace than you have when - not if, when, because every parent will - make mistakes and need help.

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