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Toddler Tantrums!

Understanding Toddler Emotions: A Guide for Parents


Parenting a toddler can be an emotional rollercoaster, not just for the child, but for you as well. Understanding why toddlers have tantrums and feel such intense emotions and why they struggle to regulate them can make this phase a bit easier to navigate.

a mother is trying to teach her toddler



  • Brain Development

Toddlers’ brains are still developing, particularly the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for regulating emotions and impulses. This means they have a limited capacity to control their feelings which can lead to leading to emotional outbursts.

  • Limited Vocabulary

At this stage, toddlers are still learning to communicate. They often lack the words to express how they feel which leads to a lot of frustration. Tantrums or crying are another way to convey their emotions.


  • Discovering Independence

Toddlers are beginning to see themselves as separate individuals, which leads to a strong desire for independence. When they are unable to do things on their own or when things don’t go their way, it can trigger strong emotional reactions.


  • Heightened Sensitivity

This age group is highly sensitive to their environment and experiences. Overstimulation, changes in routine, or even minor setbacks can feel overwhelming, making it difficult for them to manage their emotions.


  • Exploring Boundaries

Toddlers are constantly testing limits to understand the world around them. When they encounter boundaries, their frustration can result in emotional meltdowns, as they struggle to reconcile their desires with restrictions.




  • Routine and Predictability

A predictable routine helps toddlers feel secure and understand what to expect. When their routine is disrupted, they might feel anxious or stressed which can lead to emotional outbursts as a way to express their discomfort.


  • Modeling and Learning

Toddlers learn how to handle emotions by watching those around them. They need consistent, calm, and empathetic responses from parents and caregivers to help them understand and navigate their feelings. Demonstrating patience and providing comfort during emotional moments can teach them healthy ways to cope.


  • Emotional Contagion

Toddlers are highly attuned to the emotions of others. If they sense stress, anger, or frustration in their caregivers, they are likely to mirror those emotions. Maintaining a calm environment can help reduce their emotional turbulence.


  • Physical Needs

Basic needs such as hunger, tiredness, or discomfort can significantly impact a toddler’s emotional state. Ensuring they are well-rested, fed, and comfortable can help mitigate unnecessary tantrums.


  • Positive Reinforcement

Encouraging and praising positive behavior helps toddlers understand acceptable ways to express their emotions. Positive reinforcement builds their confidence and teaches them to manage their feelings constructively.


This stage of your child’s development is crucial, so it is best to approach your toddler’s emotional moments with empathy and patience, helping them develop the skills they need to regulate their emotions as they grow. Learning to regulate emotions is a vital skill that we all benefit from!


Happy Todderling! And remember - this is just a phase
a toddler is having a tantrum


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