Toddler Temper Tantrum Red Flags

by Ann Douglas

Temper TantrumsScreaming, stomping, kicking...the temper tantrum.

We have no doubt that at least one time, your child has or will throw a fit, a toy or even themselves on the floor.

Toddler temper tantrums are common and even cathartic. Are they a challenge to deal with? Yes, but as parents, it's part of the job.

At what point do those little moments of terror become areas of concern?

Researchers from the Washington University of School of Medicine have identified five "tantrum styles" that may serve as warning signs of an underlying mental health, emotional, or behavioral problem.

1. Self-injurious behavior

2. Consistent violent aggression towards others or objects

3. The inability to calm themselves without assistance

4. Tantrums lasting for more than 25 minutes

5. An average of five tantrums a day, or 10-20 tantrums in a month

The researchers studied the temper tantrum patterns of children, ages 3 through 6, and discovered that children who do not have any underlying emotional or behavioral issues tend to have shorter tantrums and to be less aggressive than children with underlying emotional or behavioral issues.

The study, "Temper Tantrums in Healthy Versus Depressed and Disruptive Preschoolers: Defining Tantrum Behaviors Associated with Clinical Problems" appears in The Journal of Pediatrics.

How do you handle these types of moments? What worked for you? What signs does your child show?

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site,

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