news item: why toddlers freak out about EVERYTHING

If you have a toddler, or have spent more than 10 minutes with someone else’s toddler, you know that they are basically losing their sh*t all day long. Sure there are great times, signing, dancing, laughing. But there is also throwing of sippy cups, yelling of “No!” (From you and them.), and the general “the barometric pressure just dropped by .0001 degrees so I am now going to cry inconsolably for 20 minutes.”

It seems like these little beings just can’t hold it together very well, or aren’t even trying. And the fact is, that is exactly what they should be doing. Losing it, freaking out, throwing tantrums.

Melida Moyer writes for Slate magazine:

…toddlers’ irrational behaviors are a totally understandable reflection of their inner turmoil and frustrations. In sum, their world is turning upside down and they don’t yet have the skills to handle it. Tantrums don’t mean your kid is a spoiled brat or needs therapy; tantrums mean he is normal.

Moyer writes that developmentally a toddler cannot actually not freak out when little things don’t go their way. Their frontal lobes, the area needed for logic and non-freaking out skills, is underdeveloped.

What was very helpful to me was reading the explanation behind why toddlers throw tantrums when we tell them “no” for safety reasons, say taking a sharp object away from them:

When you say no, sweetie, you can’t have that butcher knife, your 20-month-old has no idea that you are depriving her of this awesomely shiny contraption for her own safety. “Since it’s the parent, whom they rely on for everything, who is taking it away, it’s perceived as a withdrawal of love, essentially… The pain that this causes, Lieberman says, is similar to what we might feel if our spouse betrays or cheats on us.”

I needed to read that. So that I remember it when my soon to be toddler is freaking out, I will remember that for her, this is really hard, and really hurtful. And that tantrums, are ok. Sometimes we all just need a good cry, but as adults we are socially expected to not scream and shout when things upset us. Toddlers don’t know such social norms, lucky them. Please read, Tantrums: Why Toddlers Freak Out About Everything, and let us know what you think:


Do you have a toddler? How’s that going? (ie, tantrums and such)

Any toddler wisdom you can share?

What do you think of the research behind toddler tantrums?

Does this change your view of how you react to tantrums? Why or why not?

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