Nearly all children, no matter how placid they were as babies, go through a stage of what the experts call ‘negative behaviour.’ Such tantrums are common in the second year, carry on into the third, and begin to decline .

Tantrums are partly to do with a child’s age and stage of development. It’s a mistake to think that outbursts of temper and aggression between 15 and 36 months mean your child is being wicked and naughty.

The problem is that these months are a period of very rapid development. Your child will make enormous strides in language, in toilet training and in other areas.

Children of this age are often very enthusiastic to try out their new skills, and they can become extremely frustrated and cross when they find they can’t manage quite as well as they would like to.

Many aspects of negative toddler behaviour seem completely perverse-like whining for a drink and then, when it arrives, throwing it on the floor. This can be very upsetting and hurtful, but it’s important to remember that your child isn’t really attacking you personally.

You happen to be the source of adult authority and strength in the house and so she tests the strength of her will against yours. If you show that you’re upset, this can in fact be quite frightening for the child and may even make her furious screaming worse.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help you get through this phase.


- Do stay calm yourself when your toddler is out of control.

- Do try holding her firmly but calmly. If she won’t let you, retire to a safe distance and just wait where she can see you till she calms down.

- Do remove babies and other children from the scene if you can as you don’t want them all to start screaming. Give the others something to eat or something to do or watch, to distract them.

- Do try to remove avoidable sources of conflict; if you know she doesn’t like a certain food, there is no point in persistently giving it to her.

If you know that both she and her sibling or friend like to ride a bicycle, try to get hold of another second-hand bicycle rather than have them forever fighting over it. It is useful to have more than one of all popular toys to avoid conflict.

- Do try the value of surprise in calming her down. For instance, you might find that popping the screaming child into the bath is very effective or turning her upside down can do the trick.


- Don’t give in to her after the tantrum is over. This will simply ‘reward’ her for her awful behaviour and make her feel that tantrums are the best way of getting her own way. Reward her for being ‘good,’ not for being bad-tempered and anti-social.

- Don’t panic when your toddler behaves in an unreasonable way. It doesn’t help and she’ll most certainly grow out of this normal phase.

- Don’t compare your child to other children, even your own other children. There are very wise variations in behaviour, with some children being more likely to have tantrums than others, simply because they have a more excitable temperament.

- Tantrums in toddlerhood have no relationship to aggressive behaviour later in life, so there’s no need to worry that your angry child will become a juvenile delinquent.

If you are worried about constant anger and aggression in your toddler and she doesn’t seem to be growing out of it, do seek your doctor’s help. There are all sorts of reasons why a child may find life frustrating and infuriating - some of them physical, such as hearing problems, for instance. Your doctor can refer you to other sources of advice.