It happens to every parent at one time or another. You're walking around a department store or standing in the middle of grocery shopping when your toddler has a serious meltdown. They are screaming and flailing their arms as tears and snot run down their face. As all of the other shoppers start to walk and throw you the side-eye, you really, really wish you could teleport home and tend to your tot there. When situations like these arise, it's difficult to know how to tell if it's just a toddler tantrum or if there is a larger problem.
According to Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician, author, and founder of the physician site Dr.Greene.com, temper tantrums are a normal part of early childhood. By the time your baby becomes a toddler, they realize that they have choices available to them, and can become angry or frustrated when they feel as though they are powerless over those choices. This can result in a temper tantrum, or what Green calls “emotional storms.” But, sometimes, serious tantrums could mean that there's a problem that needs to be addressed.
Here are some types of temper tantrums that may signify your toddler has a larger issues that requires intervention.
1. Aggressive Tantrums
Occasionally toddlers will attempt aggression toward a parent or an object, but developmental psychologist Dr. Andy C. Belden told WebMD that if this occurs more than half of the time, the tantrum can be caused by a disruptive disorder. Greene added that kids who are depressed may also have a pattern of aggressive tantrums.
2. Self-Injury Tantrums
Toddlers who scratch themselves until they bleed, bang their heads, or bite themselves could have depression. Greene notes that it's important to contact a doctor if your child is exhibiting these behaviors.
3. Frequent Tantrums
WebMD warned that preschoolers who have 10 to 20 tantrums a month at home, or who have more than five tantrums in one day on multiple occasions outside the home, should be evaluated by mental health professional.
4. Very Long Tantrums
Greene noted that normal tantrums last around 11 minutes, but tantrums that last more than 25 minutes require further evaluation. According to Belden, kids with psychiatric disorders have tantrums that last 25-minute or longer 90 percent of the time.
5. Post-Tantrum Anger
Kids who aren't able to calm themselves down after a tantrum without a bribe or the parent giving in are at higher risk for ADHD, noted Greene. Children should be learning how to calm themselves by age 3.