700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

What Does Your Child’s Tantrum Really Mean?

Dec 05, 2019
Little boy having a tantrum

Screaming, crying, kicking and rolling on the floor. Tantrums.

Sometimes, as a parent, you might witness a tantrum and find yourself frustrated and wanting to yell, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?”

Well, the answer is simple and complicated at the same time – kids don’t really know. As adults, we have to be the detective to figure out what is happening and why.

Here are some common reasons children misbehave.

  1. “It gets me what I want.” Sometimes, children misbehave because the behavior gets them something they want, or it gets them out of something they don’t want to do. Think of what your words or actions may be communicating to your child. For example, when your child whines or screams while in the store until you finally give them that toy they wanted, your actions have shown them that their behavior can get them what they want - even if it feels like you have avoided your own headache in the moment.
  2. “No one notices when I am being good.” Children love to get the attention of their parents and caregivers. We have busy days and lives, which can make it easy to overlook the times children are listening and behaving well. It is important to catch those opportunities when children are doing what we like and tell them!
  3. “I can’t do that just yet.” Unrealistic expectations can be frustrating for both children and parents. Children are tasked with tackling skills they may not be quite ready for and parents are expecting them to master skills for which they may need more help and practice. Offer them opportunities to practice even simple tasks with you to boost their abilities and self-esteem.
  4. “But dad doesn’t make me do that!” Not having consistent rules and expectations for children between caregivers can also lead to misbehavior. Even the same caregiver who is more relaxed on some days and more rigid on others can send mixed signals to children about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Tantrums are hard; parenting is even harder. Remember actions really do speak louder than words. Look at your actions from your child’s perspective to understand where their behavior might be coming from.

For more support and strategies on ways to cope with children’s behavior at home, Nationwide Children’s offers free Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) classes, with a variety of topics including one on Dealing with Disobedience with additional ideas to help your child (and you) become tantrum free. For more information email TripleP@NationwideChildrens.org or call (614) 355-8099.

Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) at Nationwide Children's
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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.