Your snuggly 1-year-old, that sweet-cheeked little cuddler, has a strong set of lungs and some even stronger opinions -- and those two combined can lead to epic temper tantrums. Handling tantrums correctly now sets up healthy patterns for the future. She'll learn to deal with frustration and you'll learn to keep your cool even when she isn't.
Tantrums aren't part of daily life for every 1-year-old. Some children are placid through infancy and don't become strong willed until well into toddlerhood. Despite that, it's developmentally normal for children to start throwing a tantrum or two around 18 months of age, says psychology professor and child behavior expert Dr. Robert G. Harrington. Some will start throwing fits months earlier. In either case, it's normal for a 1-year-old to throw the occasional tantrum, and it's not uncommon for them to continue until about age 4.
At this young age, a baby uses a tantrum to meet a need or figure out her surroundings. She's trying to find out your limits for her behavior, says Dr. Harrington. So she may throw crackers on the ground to see how long she can do it before you stop her. Once you do, she'll be upset to lose the rest of her snack or be scolded by you. Communication barriers are also often to blame. She may scream because she doesn't have the words to tell you she's frustrated that play time is over. Handling Tantrums
Focus on three elements when faced with a tantrum: keep her safe, correct the behavior and maintain limits. Move her to a safe space if she's flailing so vigorously that she or other are at risk. Guess what she's upset about and help her label her feelings, suggests an article on Zero to Three, the website for the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. If she's frustrated by something like a fallen tower or stolen toy, help her find a solution. Giving in and handing her one more cookie will stop the tantrum now but teach her that future tantrums will pay off.
Heading Off Future Fits
Both you and your baby need tools to prevent future tantrums. Early childhood expert Dr. William Sears suggests massaging your baby's back, arms and hands when you think she's about to break down, like when she clenches her fists or arches her back. His site, AskDrSears.com, also suggests giving young children language to use when frustrated. When you see your baby getting upset because she can't get her way, say things like "I think you're mad" or "You look sad!" and repeat the same phrases each time. When she learns to say "Emma mad!" during a frustrating moment, she might feel enough mastery to make a tantrum unnecessary.