Contrary behavior, such as foot stomping and toddler tantrums, says more than “I’m here.” Young children may revolt when corrected and scream with frustration when denied something they want. They also cry out when angry, or even become defiant when afraid.
 
Such behaviors point to some developmental issues that shape a child’s temperament. Wise parents pay attention to these behaviors.
 
One is the assertion of power. This is often viewed as defiance or belligerence. In fact, a toddler’s attempts to define herself offer the seeds of character, self-reliance, and eventual problem solving.
 
Toddler crying with blue background

A child may be very frightened by his own outburst.

It isn’t easy to stop and recognize a screaming fit as a character building moment. But seen in the larger scope of life, this is part of the reality that is unfolding. It may not seem so, but when a child has screaming fits he may be very frightened by his own outbursts.

 
While a defiant “no!” represents power on one hand, it brings forth a sense of insecurity and lack of control on the other.
 
So there are two polar opposites found in the same expressions of behavior. Toddlers struggle to comprehend the effect of actions on the immediate environment. It can actually be reassuring for some children to realize that an adult is in control.
 
Parents of two to four year olds should resist responding too aggressively or too passively to outbursts. Angry control can be frightening to a young child. Also it can even increase the frequency of expressive behavior.
 
But no attempt to corral belligerent behavior leads to more difficult outbursts. These may become difficult to redirect.
 

How to Handle Toddler Tantrums

So what is a parent to do?
 
Take a bit of time to think through all the aspects of the situation. Who, after all, is in charge? How is power that comes from both experience and the desire to express love best used? When is intervention necessary and when is it wise to let an outburst run its course?
 
A few simple answers may help.
 
Be sure that your child is safe from physical harm. Don’t try to stop a tantrum. Instead, keep your child close and secure. If there is another child involved, separate them.
 
Afterwards come talk about feelings or what happened may be in order, but make it simple. Don’t threaten, bribe, cajole or waffle.
 
Be firm, be calm, and don’t be afraid to say no.
 
At about eighteen months many children begin to show a self-defining spirit. This is a good thing!
 
Parents and caregivers provide safe, predictable and caring responses. In doing so, parent will enjoy watching comfortable independence and behavior emerge.
 
And that is what all the foot stomping is about!