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My 20-month-old daughter is having extreme tantrums

David Coleman answers your parenting questions

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Frustration can spill out into quite severe tantrums in some toddlers. Picture posed

Frustration can spill out into quite severe tantrums in some toddlers. Picture posed

Frustration can spill out into quite severe tantrums in some toddlers. Picture posed

Question: In my family we have a three-year-old boy and a 20-month-old girl. When things don't go my daughter's way, she gets into a very bad temper. She will either lie on the floor banging her head against the floor, bang her head against the door or wall, or she will bite her own hand or arm, all while screaming the house down. If my wife or I pick her up when she is in the tantrum, she will scratch, scrape or hit us. Please help. We are at our wits' end with this behaviour.

Answer: Toddlerhood is never an easy time for children to communicate their needs, their thoughts or their feelings. They are not developmentally mature enough to have the language or insight to be able to tell us what is wrong. Consequently, we often see them demonstrating their feelings, for example, in their behaviour. Tantrums can often fall into this category.

Particularly when it comes to children being frustrated when things don't go their way, that frustration can spill out into quite severe tantrums. Being able to empathise with toddlers' frustrations, disappointments or loss can sometimes help to offset the intensity of those feelings, such that they may not escalate into such dramatic head-banging or biting.