Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Toddler Years

Why do toddlers have temper tantrums?

Once toddlers develop awareness of their own will, they inevitably encounter the frustration of their will. This is very upsetting to the child and frustration can escalate into a full-fledged temper tantrum. A temper tantrum should be distinguished from the distress expressed by a younger baby. A temper tantrum is more than a simple reaction to negative circumstances; it is an angry, defiant protest. The temper tantrum occurs not only because the child is frustrated over a particular event, but because the child is outraged at the very existence of frustration. In these moments, children are enraged that they should have to be frustrated at all, that their will can actually be thwarted.

It takes some time for toddlers to adapt to this cold, hard truth. During this time parents should be sensitive and patient with their child. While they should refrain from needless power battles, they should set appropriate limits, even if its causes the child to throw a temper tantrum. In this stage, the child is learning to adapt to the world as it is and not just how he or she might want it to be. Giving in to the temper tantrums of a child can undermine the child’s development of frustration tolerance.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Psychology Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App