Hi Is This Normal,

My one year old is usually pretty chill except that he YELLS AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS whenever he wants something or is hungry. It sounds like a screeching pterodactyl or, as my sister in law said (she also has a one year old, who NEVER yells), he sounds like cat whose tail just got stepped on. When he’s frustrated, when he’s hungry, when he’s tired. We have a 4 year old as well and it’s been very frustrating. He’s been doing this since maybe 7 or 8 months. Is this normal?

Temper Tantrum

Dear Temper Tantrum,

You know that scene in Forrest Gump, when Forrest compares life to a box of chocolates? “You never know what you’re gonna get.” He may as well have been talking about parenting, to be honest. You have one kid, and think you’ve got this figured out, more or less. Then you have another kid, and they are the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of your first kid, and it’s like doing it the first time all over again. I went into parenting my second feeling a little too confident, and ended up looking like a total noob when my youngest was like, “Oh, none of that is going to work for me, thanks.” Just one of the many joys of parenting that leave us wanting to pull our hair out, it’s fine!

Your toddler’s tantrums are totally normal. Like, one of the most normal things about raising a toddler. It’s pretty much a developmental milestone, even if some toddlers are a bit more, uh, vocal than others. At a year old, your little guy’s brain is taking in TONS of information and new stuff and trying to process it. At the same time, his language and communication skills haven’t yet caught up to all this cool stuff he’s learning and doing and feeling! And when you think about it, that is incredibly frustrating. This is how he knows how to communicate at the moment. It’s not ideal, I know, but he will grow out of it! The great thing about kids this age is that they seem to develop new skills every single day. He won’t be shrieking like a pterodactyl at this first grade teacher, so at least there’s that, right?

But it sucks. I get it! It sucks so much. No one likes to be screamed at all the damn time, even if the screamer is adorable and small. While you wait for your little guy to grow out of this phase (at least somewhat, tantrums can last into years 2 and 3), there are some things you can do to try to stave them off or manage them. It sounds like you know his triggers pretty well – hunger, fatigue, and frustration. So try to avoid letting him get to the point of tantrum. Stick to a meal and snack and sleep schedule – being in a more controlled environment will help him feel more secure. Try to limit overstimulation, especially around times you know he’s usually hungry or tired. Let him explore his surroundings more (safely, of course!); giving him a bit of freedom and independence can help with the frustration he feels. And work with him on other ways to communicate, with small words or even sign language he can use to let you know what he needs or wants.

When he has a tantrum, don’t match him in volume. Speak to him calmly and quietly, in almost a whisper. In order to hear you, he’ll quiet down. Try to distract him at the onset of a tantrum, with a game or laughter. The idea is redirect his emotions from frustrated to happy or excited. Wrap him up in a big ol’ hug and rock him when he’s losing it, your touch and calming presence can be so soothing! Try not to give in to his demands (no matter how loud he screams, he doesn’t get a treat before dinner and he doesn’t get to stand on the counter).  If you’re getting too frustrated during one of his tantrums, then make sure he’s safe and remove yourself from the situation and take a breather. Toddler tantrums are all part of the process, and he will grow out of them! Right now, you’ve got to just get through them the best you can. And maybe invest in a good pair of earplugs for you and your family in the meantime.

Don’t Let the Tiny Man Get You Down,

Is This Normal



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