It is not uncommon for toddlers to have tantrums, and most of the time they are brought on by feelings of frustration or anger. Your toddler is still learning how to handle these strong emotions, and he needs your help to teach him the appropriate ways to deal with them. With patience and empathy, you can show your little one a better way to show his feelings.
Why Tantrums Happen
Your toddler is learning how to be independent and wants to do many actions for himself at this age, but he might get easily frustrated when he cannot accomplish the task on his own. The problem is that at this age, he lacks the verbal skills to express his frustration, and it often shows up physically through a tantrum. When his frustration or anger at not being able to do what he wants builds to a certain level, your toddler may lose control of his emotions and he explodes into a tantrum. While it is scary for you to watch your little one act this way, it is equally frightening for him because he feels out of control and he will need you to comfort him as he works through his emotions.
Stop It Before It Starts
The best way to help a toddler through his frustration is to be there to support him. If you are noticing him getting frustrated, offer some help. If he refuses your help, back off because if he feels you are coming in and taking over, it could add to his frustration. Also remember not to swoop in and help him so much that he never feels any amount of frustration. He needs to learn to have those feelings and be able to work through them to feel success at accomplishing a task. Just watch for signs that his frustration might be ready to boil over. If he doesn't want help, you can suggest trying again later or distracting him with another activity.
Choose Your Battles
Toddlers who are learning to exert their independence often have their own ideas about how things should go. Sometimes, this doesn't match up with what we have planned, which can result in feelings of anger or frustration for your little one. According to the Ask Dr. Sears website, you should think about whether the issue is worth your toddler getting upset and angry. For example, if he wants to get out of his car seat while you are driving, that is never going to be OK and you might have to help him through his anger at not getting what he wants. However, if he doesn't want to wear the shirt you picked out for him today, go ahead and let him choose his favorite. Giving him choices when you can will give him the feeling of independence he desires.
Young children who are experiencing feelings of anger or frustration often do not know how to identify them. You can help your toddler by teaching him the words he needs to express his feelings. As you hold him during a tantrum say, "You are angry that you can't have what you want" or "I bet that is frustrating when you have trouble stacking the blocks." Remember to breathe and stay calm and reassure him as he releases some of his strong emotions. When he is calm, talk about other safe ways he can show his frustration, such as taking a deep breath or stomping his feet. Rest assured that when he acquires more language skills and is able to express his needs with words, the temper tantrums will decrease.