Location: St.Albans - Hatfield Road
14th April 2017

Health Visitor Blog ‘THE TERRIBLE TWOS&rsquo

Health Visitor Blog ‘THE TERRIBLE TWOS&rsquo


As a Health visitor and a mother of a 2yr old , I know the phase often referred to as the “terrible two’s” can be an incredibly stressful time that can even lead some parents to become frightened to leave their home for fear of a potential meltdown in Tesco!

Thankfully, as with many things, tantrums are a phase within development that usually passes by the time a child hits 4 yrs old.

Experts and the media report on many ways that parents can deal with tantrums but I think it is firstly important to understand why children tantrum and often it is not because they are simply ‘being naughty’.

Children cannot help tantruming. Children have tantrums because their brains are not like adults and they do not have the emotional control that an adult has. As adults, we have learnt to control our emotions and impulses in line with what is socially acceptable and before they get out of control. Children don’t have this ability so rather than them being manipulative or naughty, it is actually more that they are struggling with their emotions and feelings.

Toddlers feel just as bad when they tantrum. As parents we may feel like our little one is always choosing the most inconvenient time to tantrum; in a busy supermarket, when you’re late for work or when you’ve had a very stressful day. This can lead to you feeling ashamed, embarrassed, stressed or simply out of control. For all those negative emotions you are feeling, your child is feeling them too as they are out of control and unable to control their emotions.


Toddlers often tantrum because they feel disconnected to a parent. This can often happen when things change for example; a new sibling, starting nursery or mummy returning to work. If you know there have been some big changes that are perhaps unsettling for your child, it would be advisable to address  these tantrums by helping them to understand that you love them just as much as before and try to connect more with them.

How to manage temper tantrums

Hopefully now you will have a clearer understanding as to why toddler’s tantrum and therefore you may be able to approach them in a way that does not exacerbate the situation. Here are a few suggestions of how to manage the tantrums.

  • Distraction- This is a great technique and so simple because once the child is distracted for a few moments, they have usually forgotten the reason why they tantrummed in the first place.
  • Don’t lose your temper-I know this one can be hard when you’re tired or stressed but children are very perceptive and you’ve probably noticed that if you shout then they will shout louder and the tantrum becomes worse. Instead, I would advise that you speak in a very calm measured tone.
  • Don’t hit you’re child- I would never advocate hitting your child in any situation. If you hit your child , you risk teaching them that it is acceptable to do this .
  • Don’t give in or bribe them with sweets or toys- I know its easy to bribe your children to stop tantruming as it can be an easy fix to a frankly stressful situation but it really won’t be good for you in the long term. If you give in or bribe your child, they will think that tantrums get them what they want.
  • Praise your child when they calm down- sitting down with them after the tantrum when they are calmer gives you a chance to praise them for calming down. It will also allow you to find out why they are behaving like they are as this is the first step to being able to help.
  • Show that you love them but not their behaviour- Sometimes children will tantrum because they feel they are not getting enough attention. In this case it would be advisable to praise any good behaviour and give them lots of cuddles and affection when they are not behaving badly.
  • Time out- this is only really useful for the children over two. The ‘time out’ could be on a chair in the hallway or the bottom of the stairs and really is just an opportunity for the child to calm down. They may also begin to realise that their behaviour is unacceptable.

If your child is over 4yrs old or starting school and still having temper tantrums, it would be advisable to see your GP or Health visitor for further assessment as this can potentially indicate a learning difficulty.

Julia Headland