“I want this now!” shouts a two-year-old, pulling candy off the grocery shelf.
“Not today,” says his mother.
When his mother refuses, he responds with a full-fledged temper tantrum: screaming, crying, thrashing, and kicking. Tantrums like this are hard to watch, they’re embarrassing, and they can make parents feel helpless. They’re also part of normal development.
Why do children have tantrums? At times a child is simply overtired or hungry. Most often, however, the answers are rooted in developmental characteristics. Young children have very little self control; they live in the here and now, and act on their immediate desires. When parents respond to their child’s wishes by saying “no,” he sometimes reacts negatively. Young children lack the ability to think logically and follow adult reasoning.
A child will probably not understand why his parents deny one of his wishes, even though their explanations may make perfect sense to them. Another reason for temper tantrums, particularly with pre-verbal toddlers, is the young child’s inability to express his needs and wants fully. When his parents can’t understand him, he becomes easily frustrated.