Without a doubt, toddlers are the most unpredictable creatures on earth. One second they are sweet angelic cherubs, and the next they are a screaming ball of rage that would send Hulk Hogan running for the nearest exit.
Each child has a unique temperament and will pitch a fit in ways that are different than a sibling, friend, or kid down the street. Some may hold their breath, and a few may whine incessantly; however, many kids exhibit more dramatic displays like screaming, crying, kicking, and throwing things. Some children rarely throw a temper tantrum a few times a year, while others have meltdowns a few times a day.
No doubt you have wondered what causes these volatile outbursts, although that may be the least of your worries when trying to deal with them. Tantrums and meltdowns are one of the biggest challenges parents face. We’ll go over some of the reasons why they occur to help you manage some of these wild eruptions.
Toddlers are learning new skills including language and they become frustrated by not being able to express themselves through words. So, they use loud actions to get their caregiver’s attention. They may be angry at not getting their way about something, or irritated by having limitations and not being in control.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but many people don’t actually know how much sleep children need at different ages. Toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour cycle, including naps. This means they may sleep 10 hours at night and take a 2-3 hour nap after lunch. Or they may take a two hour nap in the morning, followed by an hour or so after lunch, and cap it off by sleeping eight hours during the night. If their sleep routine gets out of whack – which is unavoidable sometimes – they are going to get downright cranky.
Toddlers need to eat fairly frequently during the day – preferably 5-6 times a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics Handbook recommends three main meals a day, with two snacks in between meals. However, the snacks should be healthy choices such as fruits, protein, whole grains, veggies, and dairy. Not the junk food you typically find on the snack aisle in the supermarket.
Some tantrums are created out feelings of helplessness which is scary to a little tyke. When a child doesn’t have control over his current circumstances and doesn’t know how to change them, it creates fear because he is powerless to do anything. Often these fears develop when being left with a caregiver or placed in new surroundings.
Other reasons a child may have a meltdown is because they are not receiving enough attention and need some “me time,” they may be in a noisy, over-stimulating environment, or could be developing a cold or other ailment.
If your child is having frequent and/or severe meltdowns, they may be the result of an underlying disorder such as anxiety, a learning disability, language issues, autism, or ADHD. A good mental health professional can give your child a comprehensive evaluation based on a wide range of factors. This information will be critical in helping the professional reach a diagnosis so that your child can learn key development tasks such as problem solving skills and impulse control, while bringing stability back to the family unit.