Good News About Temper Tantrums

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Temper tantrums? They’re so passé. Turns out, toddlers just aren’t living up to their terrible twos reputation. In a surprising study, scientists found that fewer than 10 percent of young children have daily temper tantrums.

“We found that intense, exhausting temper tantrums do not typically occur on a regular basis,” says study author Lauren Wakschlag, PhD, a professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Watch for these temper tantrum signs

Even though toddlers have fewer temper tantrums than we might expect, most little children get frustrated when they’re tired or having to deal with daily routine stuff like bedtime or getting dressed. This behavior is par for the kiddie course and, developmentally speaking, quite common.

Still, there are some types of temper tantrums to take note of, which “could be concerning for both mental health and quality of life,” says Wakschlag. Temper tantrum signs that could indicate a red flag:

  • Your child’s temper tantrums seem to come out of the blue
  • Temper tantrums that last longer than five minutes
  • Temper tantrums that are particularly physical (breaking things, hurting herself or others)
  • A pattern of extreme temper tantrums

If extreme, atypical, temper tantrums continue for a few months and were not precipitated by a major life transition (such as a move or the birth of a sibling), talk to your pediatrician, who may recommend a child behavior specialist. Otherwise, don’t fret. “Any child—or parent!—can have a bad day,” reminds Wakschlag.

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