Toddler Tantrums: Why They Happen & What To Do

Toddler Tantrums: Why They Happen & What To Do

Your toddler has an extensive fan base. Their daycare teacher, grandparents, neighbors, extended family, and close friends love your toddler and their sweet hugs and funny ways. People comment on how well behaved your toddler is, but you may be chuckling to yourself, thinking if they only knew!

Once you arrive in the comfort of your own home, your toddler may act differently. You may see meltdowns full of screaming, kicking, and crying. These toddler tantrums can spike the blood pressure of the most serene and calm parents. You may ask yourself, how can your toddler go from a sweet and silly munchkin all day to experiencing a fit of rage by night?

Although it may seem like your toddler has turned into a completely different child, toddler tantrums are a part of growing up. Don’t second guess your parenting skills either. For most parents, it is the question of when a tantrum will happen and not if.

Let’s chat about why those pesky tantrums occur and what you can do when they happen.

Why Tantrums Happen

Toddler tantrums are a normal part of your child’s development. Not all toddlers will experience severe tantrums, but a whopping majority will. As they become more independent and willing to explore, you can expect to see tantrums emerge after your child's first birthday. It may taper off when your child is about three or four years old and can better grasp their communication skills.

So the good news is that there is an end in sight, but the bad news is that it may feel like time is still in the middle of a meltdown. Figuring out why your toddler is throwing a tantrum can make you feel like a code breaker, but the most common reasons for tantrums can be boiled down to a few things. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons tantrums may happen.

Hungry & Tired

Do you ever feel hangry? Being hungry can make us feel frustrated, and with young children's rapidly growing bodies, they can feel incredibly grumpy when it is past their usual mealtime. If it’s been too long since your toddler has eaten, a dip in blood sugar can physically alter their mood as the hunger and anger meshes into the emotion we know as “hangry.”

The easiest fix? A healthy and nutritious snack.

A sleepy toddler can also show signs of irritability. If your toddler isn’t as quick on their toes as they usually are and shows their classic signs of feeling grumpy, you may have a tired toddler on your hands.

As you remember from their baby days, an overtired child can try to fight sleep, and the problem becomes worse.


Sometimes, there can be too much going on in your toddler’s world. Loud noises, bright lights, too many people, or all three can make your toddler feel overwhelmed. Too many sensations can leave your little one unsure of how to cope. When your child feels miserable because of overstimulation, take them to a quiet environment to self-soothe, take deep breaths, and calm down.


You love that your toddler is starting to form their vocabulary. They can be quite the little chatterbox, but you may not always understand what they are saying. Your toddler may also not quite have the words under their belt to express how they are feeling or what they want at the grocery store. This roadblock in communicating can leave your toddler feeling frustrated. A meltdown ensues since they don’t have the words to express their feelings.

If your toddler is pointing at something during a tantrum, this can signal that they are trying to communicate but cannot find the words. They may be pointing to what they want or what makes them upset.

Not Getting What They Want

We are familiar with the demands our toddlers can make. Some days, they want their sandwich cut into triangles, then suddenly decide they want it cut into rectangles. If you weren’t made aware of this preference change, your toddler would surely let you know by refusing to eat the said sandwich.

When your toddler does not get something they want, they may throw a tantrum to show the frustration they are experiencing. This could range from not getting a toy or snack they want to not wanting to clean up their toys or leaving the park earlier than they wanted.

What To Do When a Tantrum Occurs

Knowing and accepting that your toddler will throw a tantrum can help you prepare for the day it occurs. Planning ahead and envisioning the tantrum can allow you to run through the actions you’ll take as a parent.

Don’t take it personally if your toddler has a tantrum. Your child is learning to navigate their emotions and how to communicate, and feeling frustrated is a part of growing up. We know that navigating through these tough times can be exhausting and that you can also feel frustrated when trying to calm down your toddler.

If there is a silver lining to be had, your child feels safe and secure enough to release any emotions they have been keeping in. Although it doesn’t feel like a reward for the sleepless nights and parenting you’ve put in so far, just know that your child feels comfortable and can be themselves around you.

Being prepared for what actions you’ll take to calm down your toddler is the best action you can take. Let’s look at what you can do when a tantrum occurs.

Keep Your Cool

This tip may be easier said than done. After a long day of work, then battling your commute, you still come home to make dinner and deal with housekeeping. You are worn out and ready for relaxation and quality time with your family.

Your toddler doesn’t get their way (plus throw some tiredness or hunger in the mix), and you have a recipe for a full-blown tantrum. Of course, you’ll want to use some discretion depending on the situation, but keeping your cool throughout the situation is the best first step when dealing with an emotional toddler.

As long as this is a textbook tantrum, no illness or aggressive behavior is involved, simply ignoring your toddler during this time may help bring the tantrums to an end. When your toddler sees that they are not getting any attention, they will likely stop the unwanted behaviors.

Once they stop, give your child positive attention that reinforces them calming down, like telling them that you are so happy that they are not crying anymore. If the tantrums triggers continue, your toddler will realize that they will not receive any attention from you until they calm down in a safe place.

Another way to keep your cool is to step back, have a time-out, and ponder your behavior. If you engage with your toddler while they are emotional, try whispering so they have to quiet down to hear you.

Keeping your positive behavior chill may rub off on your child, and their anger and frustration will melt away.

Give Meaning to Feelings

Your toddler is experiencing big emotions within their little body. Sometimes they don’t know how to deal with these emotions or how to describe how they are feeling. Try talking about their feelings after your child has calmed down after a tantrum. Using their language skills, toddlers can usually communicate what made them feel emotional, or you already know because you told them ‘no’ to the particular object or action they wanted or did.

You can tell your child that you know they were feeling upset because you would not let them have a sweet snack before dinner. You can continue to explain that it is okay to feel frustrated, but instead of a sweet snack, they could ask for some fruit or vegetables next time they are feeling hungry before dinner.

If their tantrum resulted from having to share a toy, you could validate your child’s feelings by telling them that you see that they are angry. Their faces are red, and they have been crying. Then explain that it is important to learn how to share and that everyone can have fun when toys are shared. Giving words to feelings can help your toddler recognize those feelings and apply the correct names to them.

When talking with your child about their feelings, validate how they are feeling. To adults, not being able to play with a toy is not the end of the world. However, it does feel like the end of their world to your toddler. It never works to minimize someone's feelings.

A little validation will go a long way with your toddler. Teach them that it is okay to feel emotional about certain things but that we can work on how we deal with those emotions.

Don’t Give In

You’re exhausted, and your toddler is likely exhausted. Amid the crying and yelling, you just want it to stop, and the easiest way to end the tantrum is to give in to what your toddler wants. Try your absolute hardest not to give in to your toddler. It may feel like a battle of wills, but the standing firm is the best way to help mitigate these tantrums.

Giving in to whatever they're upset about will reinforce their toddler behavior. This will allow them to think that their good behavior is acceptable. They will learn that having a tantrum and acting out will help them get what they want.

Preventing Your Child’s Temper Tantrums

Once your 2-year-old approaches the stages of exploration, they will begin to push limits and boundaries. Rather than calling it the “terrible twos,” tantrums are a way of toddler life. You won’t be able to eradicate your child’s behavior and tantrums, but there are steps you can take to help reduce their occurrence.

When you sense that your child is starting to get emotional over not being able to play with a particular toy, give them a little independence and allow them a choice. You can tell them that they can no longer play with their tablet, but they can go outside and play with their ball or get on their swing.

If your toddler’s tantrums are triggered by being hungry or tired, look at their schedule and see if it needs revamping. Toddlers are growing and developing so fast, and sometimes they need a little more to eat or a little more rest. Adjust as necessary to give your child the foundation to have a well-rested and well-nourished day.

Little Yawn Collective Has Your Back

Listen, we know it’s tough being a parent. We know that there are parts of raising a little human that is not super fun, like tantrums. We also know that your little buddy is worth it and that you love them with all your heart.

There are challenging parts of parenthood, but bedtime doesn’t have to be one of them. Bedtime can be made easier with Little Yawn Collective.

Our melatonin-free sleep products help your little one drift off to dreamland with ease. When partnered with a consistent bedtime routine, our pediatrician-approved products help your little buddy fall asleep earlier, faster, and longer. Although tantrums are an inevitable part of being a toddler, a well-rested toddler is a less grumpy toddler.

Come check out how our proven sleep solutions can help your child rest easy. Dreamland awaits!


Overstimulation: babies and children | Raising Children

Temper Tantrums: What They Are, How To Handle & Possibly Prevent Them | Cleveland Clinic

Ignoring | Consequences | Essentials | Parenting Information | CDC

Temper Tantrums - StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf

Why It Is So Important For Parents to Validate Their Children | PsychAlive



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