Tantrums are a normal in toddlers. Although it is not always
clear what sets them off, there are four circumstances that most commonly elicit outbursts in this
age group. In order to help you remember these triggers, I came up with the following acronym, FACT.
If you keep these “facts” in mind, you may be able to prevent tantrums before they
Frustration: Toddlers become frustrated numerous times during the day. The
most common triggers are not getting their way, having difficulty completing a task, or not being
able to communicate due to immature language skills.
Appetite (hunger): Young
children are often unaware of their body’s hunger cues and may have a “meltdown” simply because they
need a snack.
Choice: Young children may have difficulty transitioning from one
activity to the next and are frequently held captive to other people’s schedules, i.e., they are
asked to get dressed, eat meals, or leave the house with little say in the matter. Parents can
prevent problems by giving children a couple of warnings before transitions occur and by offering
choices whenever possible. For example, if your child does not want to get dressed, you may be able
to avoid a struggle by saying, “Do you want to wear your green socks or your red
Tired: Tantrums are often triggered because a child needs a nap, did not
get enough sleep the night before, or because he is tired due to an illness. If you see this
behavior, comfort your child or encourage him to take a nap.
J. Bennett, M.D.