Is your child’s tantrum ‘normal’ – or a sign of something more serious

Child in park boy / girl

Crystal’s a mum of a four-year-old, and she wrote in to mothercraft nurse and Kinderling Helpline expert Chris Minogue for some advice on decoding her child’s tantrums.

Standard tantrum? Or something more?

“How do you know the difference when a four-year-old is just testing the boundaries with tantrums or if there’s a bigger issue causing the tantrums and the misbehaving?” Crystal wanted to know.

Chris says there’s a simple rule of thumb when it comes to tantrums and ‘bad’ behaviour, which can help parents decide if they need to troubleshoot the acting out.

“I think the easiest way that I guide parents [on this] is [to ask] whether they’re doing it socially,” Chris says. “Lots of kids will act up for their parents but be complete angels in the social world.”


Read more about kids’ behaviour:


Jekyll and Hyde

When they get to childcare or school, “they walk in the door and somebody else has walked through the door. Lots of parents will tell you ‘oh my child would never eat that at home’ or ‘my child would never hit’ and they get home and they do all of those behaviours,” Chris laughs.

It’s funny because it’s true, but Chris notes that if there’s trouble at home AND trouble at childcare or school – over similar issues – then she’d be seeking to address these behaviours more earnestly.

Listen to mothercraft expert Chris Minogue on the Kinderling Helpline:

“I think when you are sitting there thinking ‘do we have something more than the norm here?’  I would start looking in her social world,” Chris explains.

“So if she goes off to preschool two days a week and they’re starting to mention to you ‘we’re having a little bit of trouble with this certain behaviour’ that mimics what you’re seeing at home … then I think there’s an avenue for a much bigger conversation.”

Home is where the heart is

A lot of perceived ‘naughty’ behaviour is only played out in the safe space of home, and Chris says this is exactly how it’s meant to be.

“If she’s a delight out, and at home she really pushes those boundaries – which is what she should be doing – then I think she’s acting absolutely normal. That’s great!”

“They’ve got to push the boundaries somewhere in a safe environment and they’re looking for you to make those boundaries. It’s all about boundaries … and love.”


Do you have a question for Mothercraft nurse, Chris Minogue? Join Kinderling Conversation host and mum-of-two Shevonne Hunt for friendly advice, interviews and insightful tips every Monday at 12pm.

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