"Wanting something and not having it is one of the hardest human experiences" - child psychotherapist Dr Becky shares why having tantrums is healthy

 A blonde boy lying on the floor and crying hysterically.
A blonde boy lying on the floor and crying hysterically.

Sorry parents, it turns out tantrums are actually good for your kid's health. Expert Dr Becky Kennedy has explained why.

Parents will be very familiar with tantrums - no matter whether you are teaching your kids to manage their anger and teaching them emotional intelligence too, they're completely normal and, unfortunately, unavoidable. Sure, there are things you should avoid saying to your kid when they're mid-meltdown to stop the screaming from getting worse (though we know that's easier said than done when you're in the chaos of it), but rest assured that tantrums are a normal part of child development.

Child psychotherapist Dr Becky Kennedy explained why "tantruming is healthy" on Melissa Wood-Tepperberg's Move with Heart podcast. She said, "It worries me more kids who never have tantrums than kids who have big tantrums. What a tantrum really is, a kid basically saying I want something, I’m not getting it, and I still really know that I want it."

The thing that they want can be almost anything and, as parents will know, they sometimes may seem like irrational demands. But often what the child really wants is a feeling of independence or control, which is why they might reject the dinner that has been made for them - even though they usually love that particular meal - or why they have a meltdown when you tell them to hold your hand in a busy street.

Describing this feeling as a 'ball of desire', Dr Becky goes on to say, "I think we know as adults, wanting something and not having it is one of the hardest human experiences. Yet, I think what most adult women really struggle with is we’ve completely distanced ourselves from desire. We don’t even know what we want anymore."

She went on to explain that this is because, when we were growing up, wanting something was 'inconvenient' for our parents, adding that "the more you punish a kid and send them away, what they learn isn’t tantrums are wrong, they really learn when I want things it threatens my relationships."

While so many women learned this early on, Dr Becky says the answer isn't for people to stop wanting things, "it’s to learn how to want and not have", adding "that comes deeply down to boundaries".

Posting the conversation on TikTok, Dr Becky invited her followers to share their thoughts. One wrote, "Tantrums will come out, either in childhood or adulthood. I think it’s healthier in childhood." Another joked, "You would 100% not worry about my kid he has a lot of tantrums".

But not everyone agreed with what Dr Becky said. One follower commented, "I agree with the concept that tantrums are a healthy part of development - but I don’t agree that they are always caused by a 'want' and not getting". Another suggested: "There is absolutely nothing wrong with teaching your children that if they want something there are more mature ways to get it than throwing a tantrum. Let’s be real."

For more parenting advice and family news, we've shared 15 subtle ways your child expresses anxiety that you might have missed and here's why telling your kids white lies to spare their feelings could backfire, according to science. Meanwhile, two thirds of parents notice negative effects of screen time on their children - here's how make it more positive.