You’re in a store, little kid in hand, and then suddenly she tries to pull away. You bend down and whisper quietly in her ear, “Stay with Mommy, honey,” knowing full well that this reasonable request is a foolish attempt to dampen the temper tantrum that is rising like a tsunami inside your kid. With a pounding heart, you scoop her up and run from the store before someone shouts, “Bad parent. Dreadful child. Get out!”
No one knows why 2-year-olds have temper tantrums, but most of them do. It starts with mild anger over something simple but then quickly escalates into full blown fury dramatized by screaming, fist pounding, foot-stomping, and screaming. The child also descends psychologically into a place where they can’t be reached by words or physical comfort, and parents stand by helpless and confused.
Clearly, the child is distressed, but to the parent, the distress seems way out of proportion to the situation. And it is physically stressful for the child, which suggests that there must be some evolutionary reason why temper tantrums are so universal for little kids.