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Toddlers may throw fits,
act selfishly, and rarely mind. This behavior often develops out of frustration
from not being able to communicate, master skills, and be as independent as
they want to be. Assertiveness and irritability are normal behaviors for
Toddlers are actively absorbing and exploring the world
around them. So many toddlers quickly reach a point of sensory overload. This seems to
happen at the most inconvenient times, such as while you are shopping for
A newfound sense of autonomy and independence prompts the toddler to
test limits—including yours. For example, your toddler bangs a toy on the table and then looks at you for a response. When there is no response, she repeats
her actions. She wants to know what she can do and cannot do. Be patient and
set firm, fair, and consistent boundaries. This will help your toddler learn
what behavior is appropriate.
Often toddlers have fits or
temper tantrums because of internal conflicts.
Toddlers may become frustrated by wanting to do something independently
but not being able to. Also, they often have two opposing desires—wanting both
to be independent and to feel taken care of. Toddlers' tempers can become
especially fragile when they feel tired, hungry, or bored or when they want
your attention. They do not have the language skills or physical capabilities
to protest in an appropriate manner a situation they don't like.
Toward the end of the second year, tantrums usually occur less
frequently as toddlers gain more self-control and become comfortable with their
abilities. They become less frustrated and are able to show more restraint and
less of a knee-jerk response when you say "no" or otherwise challenge their
control. This behavioral improvement is related to brain maturation, especially
development of the
cerebral cortex. Recognize that these tantrums are for
the child to work out, not you.
You can try the following strategies to help manage your
toddler's challenging behavior:
Although you may sometimes feel exhausted, remember to reassure
toddlers that you love them and it's their behavior you don't like, not them.
Offer plenty of praise and attention when your child behaves well.
One of the most important parenting tools to use with your
toddler—indeed, with children of any age—is modeling behavior that you expect. Children
learn from what you tell them. And they learn even more from what they see you do.
Interacting with others in a loving, open manner and dealing with frustrations
calmly will give your toddler the best model to learn from.
For more information about behavior issues and how to respond to
them, see the topic Temper Tantrums.
July 19, 2012
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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