Toddlers can sometimes seem like aliens to their parents. One minute, your toddler is playing happily with blocks, with a big smile on her face, and the next he’s throwing those blocks and screaming at the top of his lungs. What causes toddler emotions to go from zero to 60? While the answer depends on your individual child and circumstances of the moment, his development at different stages also has a lot to do with those tantrums.

Toddler Tantrums: Age Two

Your 2-year-old toddler is actually experiencing a sense of independence, and you will notice that your toddler wants to do things by himself. For example, he may not want to wear the clothes you choose, or he might resist bedtime, dinnertime or some particular toy. Your 2-year-old will express his temper tantrums in a myriad of ways: hitting, biting, fighting, crying, kicking. However, the central thread connecting the temper tantrums is your toddler’s desire to “do it by himself,” to get his way and resist control.

Toddler Tantrums: Age Three

Your 3-year-old is most likely less emotional and his tantrums will reflect that by occurring less often and with less intensity. On the other hand, because temper tantrums typically work, and give the child what he desires, it can become a reinforced tactic. The temper tantrum plays out in a similar dynamic at this age; arguing, kicking, screaming, hitting.

Toddler Tantrums: Age Four

By now, your 4-year-old has better language and motor skills, so he IS more independent. Your 4-year-old’s language capacity now allows him to tell you how he feels, what is on his mind, and why he’s angry. This allows your 4-year-old to collaborate with you by solving his issues, and when necessary, even compromising. Temper tantrums become more verbal at age four. For example, your 4-year-old may say, “I hate you.” Don’t take it to heart. He is limited in his ability to express himself, and doesn’t developmentally understand the word hate. Additionally, his better motor and physical skills allow him to throw things as well as hit others. Furthermore, your 4-year-old now possesses better motor skills to either run away from you or hide.

As frustrating as toddler tantrums can be, it is important to remember that your toddler is undergoing important developmental milestones during ages two to four. When tantrums happen, they are often age-appropriate and not deliberately meant to embarrass or harm you. However, it is also important to try your best to prevent toddler tantrums before they start, and then when they occur, handle them in ways that can help teach your child appropriate behavior. I’ll share some tips on taming toddler tantrums in my next blog post.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.