Toddlers who have more developed language skills are less likely to throw temper tantrums by the time they begin preschool, according to a new study.
This is likely because they are better able to talk about their frustrations, according to researchers, from Pennsylvania State University.
They followed 120 predominately white children from the ages of 18 months to 4 years and measured their language skills and their ability to cope with frustration.
In one test, for example, the children’s ability to control their anger was observed as they had to wait eight minutes before opening a gift while their mothers completed a questionnaire.
Strategies used by the children in this situation included seeking support (“Mom, are you done yet?” or “I wonder what it is”) and distracting themselves from the gift by doing things such as counting out loud or making up a story.
The researchers found that children who had better language skills as toddlers and whose language developed more quickly expressed less anger at age 4 than those whose language skills weren’t as good when they were toddlers.
Children whose language developed more quickly were more likely to calmly seek their mother’s support while waiting at age 3. This, in turn, predicted less anger at age 4, according to the study, which was published Dec. 20 in the journal Child Development.
“Better language skills may help children verbalize rather than use emotions to convey needs and use their imaginations to occupy themselves while enduring a frustrating wait,” study author Pamela Cole, a professor of psychology and human development and family studies, said in a journal news release.