When my daughter hannah was 4 -- safely past the tantrum stage, I thought -- she had her first meltdown. In a crowded restaurant, in the middle of a family dinner, she threw a full-fledged fit because the cheese slid off her pizza and onto her plate. Her three siblings, her dad, and I watched in amazement as she flailed and screamed inconsolably. Her father whisked her outside to the car, where she eventually ran out of steam, while the rest of us sat at the table, amused and incredulous.
Of course, tantrums don't only happen during the "terrible twos" -- kids have outbursts like Hannah's from the time they become mobile until they start school (and sometimes beyond). Understanding why and how children erupt this way can help us empathize, cope, and even cut down on the behavior.
Karen Miles's last article for Parenting, on nurturing children's math ability, appeared in the September issue.