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

Posted in Preschool.

Crystal’s a mum of a four-year-old, and she wrote in to Babyology’s live weekly Helpline with Parent School’s mothercraft nurse 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 be concerned about it.

“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.”

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.”

Jekyll and Hyde

When they get to childcare or school, “somebody else has walked through the door” says Chris. “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 look at these behaviours more seriously.

“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.”

How to find help for your child’s behaviour

If you have concerns about your child’s behaviour both at home and in social settings, your first port of call should be your child’s GP, who can rule out any medical reasons for the behaviour. They can also issue you referrals to specialists such as child clinical psychologists or a paediatrician if further investigation is warranted. 

You may also like to discuss your concerns with one of Babyology’s resident parenting and child behaviour experts, available via Parent School. You can book a one-on-one video call with the expert of your choice, who will offer solutions to troubleshoot your child’s tricky behaviour and help you decide if additional support might be needed. Click here to find out more at Parent School


Parent School footer dinkusNeed some more toddler or preschooler behaviour advice? Our Parent School experts can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session.


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