Temper tantrums: What's normal, what's not?

content provided by mayoclinic.com

Temper tantrums: What's normal, what's not?


My 3-year-old son has frequent temper tantrums. How can I tell if the tantrums are normal for a child his age — or if they're a sign of something more serious?

No name
No state given


Tempter tantrums are a normal part of growing up. Often, temper tantrums — which may include crying, screaming, or stomping up and down — are simply the expression of a child's frustration. As self-control improves, temper tantrums typically become less common. Most children outgrow tantrums by age 4.

Sometimes, however, temper tantrums can indicate an underlying issue, such as:

  • Developmental delay
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Rarely, temper tantrums may indicate a more serious condition, such as Asperger's syndrome.

To determine whether your son's temper tantrums are cause for concern or simply an age-appropriate response to frustration, ask yourself these questions:

  • How often and in what settings do the temper tantrums occur?
  • Is your son's speech development on track?
  • Are your son's motor abilities and curiosity normal for his age?
  • Are you able to manage the tantrums?
  • Has your son ever injured himself or others during a tantrum?
If you're concerned about a possible underlying condition or if your son's tantrums seem especially severe, consult your son's doctor. He or she may offer assurance that your son's behavior is normal — or explore the possibility of any underlying conditions that may be contributing to the tantrums.
Last Updated: 2009-04-01
© 1998-2016 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Terms and conditions of use


Bookmark and Share   E-Mail Page   Printer Friendly Version