Toddler Tantrums: Is my tantrumming child naughty … or could it be anxiety?

Tanya Curtis offers a simple process to understand toddler tantrums

Toddler Tantrums: Is my tantrumming child naughty … or could it be anxiety?

It is a common fact that toddlers have tantrums, in fact all children (0 to 100+) have been known to have tantrums at times. But why? If our innate way of being is to be in state of harmony, why are so many prone to tantrums?

Rather than reduce our view to only that of the disturbance that a tantrum creates, this article explores one factor that can be a prominent influence to tantrums… and that is the occurrence of anxiety.

Unwanted behaviours, including tantrums, can often be a result of many factors unseen to the moment the tantrum is occurring, and at times pinpointed to a person experiencing varying intensities of anxiety. Thus, to understand these kinds of tantrums and unwanted behaviours, we must also understand anxiety.

There are two descriptions of anxiety that resonate strongly with this author:

  1. When one is experiencing anxiety, they do not feel safe to express.
    ~ Michael Benhayon

  2. Anxiety (body) is feeling not equipped (skills) to respond to what is in front of you (life) when in fact you are fully (knowing) equipped.
    ~ Serge Benhayon

To address the first description is simply about offering a foundation that supports our children of all ages to feel safe to express and that allows them to be all that they are … the awesome, amazing, lovable being that is innate in us all.

To address the second definition, we must be open to understanding and thus exploring that for unwanted behaviour to occur from a body, there is without any doubt an aspect of life they do not perceive they have all the required skills to respond to, or do not want to perceive that they do.

Thus, tantrums and all unwanted behaviours are simply another form of a person communicating their struggle to cope, or reactions to be a part of what life is requiring them to do/be.

Tantrum behaviours are often seen as a person being ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’. The truth is all behaviour is a form of communication. When a person is having a tantrum or using an unwanted behaviour it is important to ‘understand’ the behaviour as a form of communication and never ‘judge’ the behaviour to be right or wrong – the latter only leads to our own reactions and inability to handle the situation.

When a tantrum or meltdown is imminent, we could start by asking:

  1. What is this person trying to communicate?

  2. What is the aspect of life this person is finding uncomfortable, difficult or challenging in some way?

  3. What is the person perceiving that they are not completely equipped to respond to? And, is that true or could there be an avoidance to respond differently?

When any person does not feel equipped to respond to what life is presenting (true or not in their perception), their anxiety levels will increase. Anxiety levels increasing will always be a sign that ‘unwanted behaviours’ are pending.

To effectively support lasting change with tantrums and unwanted behaviour we must first come from a place of understanding and not judge the behaviour to be wrong – our own reactions simply fuel the behaviour to continue rather than diffuse it.

There are three simple steps that can be followed to support our tantrumming child to grow to be the independent, responsible and connected being they innately are: to be a person that feels equipped and is willing to respond to all parts of life. These steps relate to:

  1. Body

  2. Life

  3. Skills

Step One – Body

Learn to observe the body and all the behaviours we use. The body will be the first form of communication to indicate when anxiety levels are increasing. As soon as a body leaves a calm, tension-free state then it can be experiencing anxiety, which if left unaddressed can lead to an array of unwanted behaviours.

Step Two – Life

As soon as a body has changed from using calm and preferred behaviours, we know it is that person’s way of saying life has just become uncomfortable, difficult or challenging in some way. Step two is about identifying the aspect of life a person losing their temper is finding difficult to negotiate. This is the part of life the person does not perceive they are completely equipped to respond to and/or are avoiding.

For example – once the unwanted behaviour signs start to occur, is it possible that:

  • This person is tired

  • This person is hungry

  • This person is thirsty

  • This person is hot, cold

  • This person is struggling with the behaviour of the other kids they are playing with

  • This person is struggling with the word ‘no’

  • The person is struggling with what they are feeling and have become aware of?

… and the list could go on!

Step Three – Skills

This step is about teaching the person new skills; new wanted behaviours that will enable them to feel more equipped to respond to life and what life is presenting. As a parent, one of our key roles is to offer children the opportunity to develop skills to respond to all aspects of life – never assume skills will be learnt automatically.

Thus, supporting a person using unwanted behaviour(s) is first about us developing UNDERSTANDING

  1. Understanding that each person’s behaviour is a form of communication ... telling us how they are experiencing life.

  2. Understanding that unwanted behaviours are a reaction to the part of life a person is currently finding difficult or unwanted in some way.

  3. Understanding we must first connect with our child and truly meet them for who they are … the awesome, amazing, lovable being that is innate in us all.

  4. Understanding that a parent’s role is as a life teacher… to teach their child to respond to life and all that life presents and never to expect life skills will automatically be learnt.

  5. Understand that when a person perceives they have the required skills to respond to ‘life’ their anxiety levels will be lowered and thus preferred behaviours will become the norm.

With understanding, we allow all children to:

1. Feel safe to express who they innately are.

2. Feel equipped to respond to life and all that life presents.

Filed under

AnxietyMental healthBody awarenessChildren

  • By Tanya Curtis, Author, Behavioural Specialist, Assoc Dip Ed. (Child Care), BHlthSci. (BehMgt), MBehMgt, MCoun

    Tanya is dedicated to supporting people to understand and change their unwanted behaviours and live their full potential. Tanya’s deep care and love of people shines through all of the initiative she dedicates herself to.

  • Photography: Rebecca UK, Photographer

    I am a tender and sensitive woman who is inspired by the playfulness of children and the beauty of nature. I love photographing people and capturing magical and joyful moments on my camera.