- Occasional tantrums are normal for children during the first three years of life, as increasing independence collides with emotional and verbal immaturity.
- Frequent rage attacks, together with unusually aggressive or self-destructive behavior, however, may augur more serious behavior issues, including a propensity toward violence.
- Genetic factors play a role in overly aggressive behavior in toddlers as do language delays, smoking during pregnancy, socioeconomic factors and certain parenting styles. Countering such contributors may help curtail the number of youths who become chronically violent.
Three-year-old Merle throws a tantrum in the supermarket whenever her mother refuses to buy something she wants. Little Anna screams wildly when her mother interrupts her playing to put on a jacket so the family can go out. Ben, an adorable towhead, barely two, bites into furniture and toys as soon as anyone drops the word “no.”
Merle, Anna and Ben are in the tantrum phase—sometimes referred to as “the terrible twos”—and they dispense frustration and anger to everyone around them. (All of the names of the children mentioned in this article have been changed to protect their privacy.) Reasoning is useless; threats and punishment fail to stem the bawling, agitation and aggression. And then, just as suddenly as it begins, it is over: the child is cuddling up to Mommy or Daddy for comfort. Small wonder that so many parents feel powerless to control these mini crises.