Is there such a thing as a no-tantrum child?…


…and if so, is that normal? I often find myself discussing various aspects of parenting with a variety of other mums going through similar stages and phases with their children, but recently, during a conversation about the ‘Terrible Twos’ an older lady who’s daughter is now in her 20s interjected into the discussion stating that she’d never had to witness the Terrible Twos as her daughter had been a perfect angel and never had any tantrums. I did a double take – really? A toddler that never had a single tantrum? Is that even possible? I have to admit to being extremely sceptical assuming that this lady was just misremembering through a rosy-tinted haze.

Next time I was on the laptop my curiosity got the better of me and I googled “toddlers who never have tantrums” (or something similar) to see whether there was actually any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise for such a phenomenon. I found a thread on NetMums discussing this subject and there were actually a few people who claimed to have children who don’t conform to the generally understood phenomenon of the Terrible Twos. I don’t think anyone claimed that there were no bad times at all but just that they had children who were very mild-mannered and even if they got upset about something it would involve no more than a couple of minutes of grumpiness before they moved on.

The general feeling seemed to be that tantrums really exist on a sliding scale depending on the nature of the child – anything from a little minute-long grump to full on rolling around on the floor of the supermarket kicking, screaming and crying.

Other than the nature of the child, external factors also have to be taken into account – maybe some parents are just better at following their children’s cues and making sure they are never too tired, hungry, stressed or overstimulated. I’m sure this must be easier to manage with an only child too as you are able to focus solely on that one child’s needs and patterns – with more than one you are constantly juggling and trying to play off the balancing act.

And maybe some parents just give in to their child’s every demand and that’s why there are no real tantrums? Having said that I have definitely been guilty of one of the big no-nos of parenting when it comes to tantrums – giving my children the thing they want, to fend off or end a melt-down. I managed slightly better yesterday in our local garden centre when JJ started losing it because I wouldn’t buy him one of their juice bottles. I stood my ground though and when he eventually wailed “but Mummy I’m thirsty” I whipped the pre-packed drink bottles out of my bag and that seemed to be an end to it! (If I had taken the bottles out any earlier they would have been dashed away no doubt, I think he just had to reach a point where he realised that this was actually a workable solution to his actual issue – being thirsty – albeit not as cool a solution as one in a £1.50 tiger-shaped bottle).

In my further research I learned that tantrums happen at a time when children are developing the limbic system – the emotional centre of the brain. This kicks in before the development of the cortex (the reasoning and thinking part of the brain) so when emotions hit, they hit hard and there is nothing in place to off-centre that flood of feelings. The article I read did acknowledge that some children never have tantrums, but I guess its reassuring to know that when they happen they are actually indicators of healthy brain function and development – I still think I’d be a bit weirded out by a perfect angel.

How about you?

13 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as a no-tantrum child?…

  1. Interesting post, and love that you went off to Google this no-tantrum phenomenon! I guess it depends on what you class as a tantrum, too. Boo never did the full on meltdown and screams and tears, for which I’m thankful! I think it helped that she spoke very early so could communicate what she wanted rather than getting frustrated. She was a more difficult 3 year old – she communicates a little too well now and can be very argumentative 😉 Little Man has a different temperament to her entirely, though, so I am preparing myself for those full on supermarket melt-downs that I feel are inevitable…!

    • I actually think that the tantrums have got worse and become more dramatic the older JJ gets which doesn’t really follow the whole speech theory. Also, looking back on it some of his worst tantrums were about things which I was well aware of (not wanting to go home from a fun playdate, etc). I reckon its probably more to do with varying temperaments…I think its a control thing with him – its like I was saying in my Mirror Stage post – they go through this period of adjustment whilst they realise that they can’t control every aspect of their world and that’s also why a lot of them seem to be so OCD about the things they can control (the way their toys are lined up, etc.) and why tantrums erupt when those routines get mucked up too!

  2. Oh loved this post and your research too, my eldest tantrummed and still does aged 4, and like you, I’ve come to terms that this is common, formative behaviour…I do have friends with kids who don’t have quite the same meltdowns though (and they’re not pretending as many do, either) just very calm and quiet so tantrums are never as full as others.

    I weirdly started speaking at 6 months old (30 words by 9)-not surprising when you meet me ( I love to talk) but in my case, different to readingresidence’s child, it only made me more frustrated as I got to 1,2, 3 etc according to my Mum as I was in such a hurry to learn everything plus other people expect so much from you (wrongly) as emotional maturity hasn’t necessarily caught up with linguistic skills.

    Kids are all different but the majority will scream and ball in Tesco with the best of them . Pass the gin.

    • Good point Vicky! I think as parents its easy to beat ourselves up and feel really embarassed by tantrums in public but its really just a normal part of development so why worry?! One of JJ’s (female) friends is a bit like you were – appeared to always be streets ahead of her peer group but out of all the group of friends I don’t think any of us ever witnessed such a dramatic meltdown as she had one day! It was an eye-opener as we all thought she was the perfect, super-advanced child up to that point!! Hand the gin over when you’re finished…

  3. well, it’s odd but neither of my boys had tantrums – ever. They both had the grumps sometimes and told me exactly what they thought, and left me in no doubt that they were NOT happy. But that was the worst it ever got. I just think I was lucky.

  4. I have friends whose children don’t tantrum and are easily calmed and pacified. It’s a completely alien concept to me – I was a big tantrummer as a child, my older daughter has taken over my crown as Queen of the Tantrum. But my mother swears blind my older brother, a much calmer and more obedient sort than I, never once had a tantrum and I can actually believe it.

    Some children are just made that way. Some people are powerfully emotional, others are instinctively rational. It’s just how we are.

    I would describe my older daughter as the kind of child who can make me look like an awful parent. One memorable occasion she had such a paddy when I wouldn’t buy her a sodding Fruit Shoot, chucking herself around screaming ‘NO NO NO’ at the apple juice I was offering her instead, that a grandmother at the next table actually put her hands over her granddaughter’s ears because ‘she doesn’t know that word yet’.

    I have never once wished my daughter were easier to pacify or more obedient and rational. Yes sometimes it’s pretty hard work and it’s emotionally draining for both of us when she’s on one about whatever it is I’ve had to say no to today, or whatever’s bugging her. But ultimately she’s a child with powerful emotions and a deep empath, with a focus and persistence some would pay fortunes in therapy to acquire – and who wouldn’t want a daughter like that?

    • Great point Cathy! I always used to be a bit jealous of my friends with nice calm babies who would just lie around gurgling happily and not move for an hour but then my mum pointed out that a highly demanding, curious and constantly moving baby is probably an indicator of a more active mind – same kind of thing I guess. Didn’t know what word yet? No? Or Fruit Shoot? 🙂

    • There have been lots of interesting responses here! I think this is a great comment. Being the mum of teenagers now I definitely think that appreciating their right to have emotions and desires makes for teens who know their own mind and are more likely to want to please themselves and do what is best for their own lives, not “run with the crowd”.

      Oh yeah and I know that “look like an awful parent” feeling.

  5. That’s an interesting post… I must say that I am having a little girl who was more like a “perfect angel”. She is such a calm and peace loving child.. Believe me in last 4.5 years of parenting her, we did not spend even a single sleepless night… Neither we had to delay our sleep or go through all those “typical parenting modes”. Though I use the word tantrum during her toddlerhood, I knew that she was one rare breed of children. It does happen, rarely though!

    P.S: It has nothing to do with my parenting skills – Just that she is born with a calm and peace loving nature. However, I am not sure how she would turn up in!

  6. Both of mine definitely went through the tantrum stage and now we’re at the stubborn argumentative stage. Hopping by via #MBPW and I’ve given you a follow

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