Q: When she doesn’t get what she wants, my 11-month-old daughter has little temper tantrums. While I understand this is normal, I’m concerned she will scratch herself while pulling at her hair or clothes.
A: Your daughter needs your help in preventing her from reaching levels of frustration that are beyond her ability to cope. Over time, she will become better at regulating her emotions. But, for now, you will need to assist her by working to understand the likely causes of her tantrums, and to either help her avoid these situations or provide solutions or distractions once a tantrum is under way. At this stage of development, it is natural for your daughter to want to explore her environment — so make her surroundings safe enough so that she can do many things without restrictions; that will go a long way toward reducing her frustration. (Of course, you still need to provide constant supervision and there are times when you must say no, but it’s important to pick your battles.)
It will also help to organize your daughter’s day around predictable routines, setting realistic limits that still allow her to be curious and explore. Meanwhile, keep her fingernails short so she can’t scratch herself!
Likely her tantrums cause her to feel frightened, and she needs reassurance and comforting through holding and a soothing tone of voice. In providing those things, it is essential that you stay calm when she is not.
Emotion regulation will be an important cornerstone of development as your daughter gets older. So if you find these suggestions difficult to implement or the changes you make don’t help, I recommend you consult a qualified professional who can assess your daughter’s behaviour in person.