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Toddlers have a variety of moods but not the words to express their strong feelings. Frustrations can result in a tantrum but knowing the signs helps avoid them.

Toddlers moods and feelings can swing from one extreme to the other.

In the Whakatipu booklet Te Pihinga 3, under ‘Ngā tohu whānau’, ‘Guidance and understanding’ (page 23), we’re reminded that tantrums are normal for toddlers – they don’t yet have the words they need to express their strong feelings.

Expressing their feelings

Some other helpful places in Te Pihinga 3 to explore with the whānau are:

  • Page 3 – Pēpi says: ‘When I’m hōhā, I might start hitting, scratching, crying and grizzling.’
  • Page 5 – Whānau say: 'We’re recognising and respecting how he is feeling and we respond to his needs.’
  • Page 11 – ‘Staying calm with our tamariki’ This page gives tips for whānau to model calm behaviour.
  • Page 15 – Pēpi says: ‘I’m beginning to have tantrums — that’s me struggling with my emotions!’
  • Page 17 – Whānau say: ‘She is still learning about sharing or having turns — she thinks if she gives things away they won’t come back!’
  • Page 21 – Te hinengaro mīharo: ‘If she is overtired, scared, feels pressured or is over stimulated, her brain won’t be working at its best.’

Heading off a tantrum

In the Tips for Under-fives booklet (page 6) it says, ‘Sometimes parents expect too much, not realising that their child is acting normally for their age.’ It suggests, ‘Try to avoid tantrum triggers, like shopping when they’re tired or hungry.’

A similar message is on page 4 in the Tricky Bits booklet, where it says, ‘Most children have tantrums, usually when they’re frustrated and can’t tell you how they are feeling.’

Ask whānau:

  • How does this match your child’s behaviour at the moment?
  • What changes in their moods and feelings have you noticed?
  • How do they communicate that?
  • Why do you think that’s happening?
  • How has this affected things for you and your whānau?
  • What else would you like to talk about?
  • What more would you like to find out about?

How does this relate to Tākai resources?

Baby wall frieze – Kōrero mai, e aroha ana koe ki ahau – tell me you love

That way I’ll learn that I’m important, and I know I’m loved.

Six things children need – Te aroha me te mahana – love and warmth 

Helpful resources for whānau