The year between age 2 and age 3 is an exciting one. Toddlers are realizing that they are separate individuals from their parents and caregivers. This means that they are driven to assert themselves, to communicate their likes and dislikes, and to act independently (as much as they can!). Toddlers are also developing the language skills that help them express their ideas, wants, and needs.
Learning to Handle Strong Feelings
As a parent, your job is to help your young toddler navigate the tide of strong emotions she is experiencing this year. This is no small task, because the emotional lives of 2-year-olds are complex. This year they are beginning to experience feelings like pride, shame, guilt, and embarrassment for the first time.
Older toddlers are a lot like teenagers. Their feelings may swing wildly from moment to moment. They may be joyful when getting a popsicle and then despair when it drips on their hands. So toddlers really need your loving guidance to figure out how to cope with their emotions.
Your child is struggling with this when:
- He has a meltdown when you can’t understand his words
- She says no when she means yes (you are offering her a favorite treat)
- He gets so angry that he might throw a toy
- She cannot settle for a substitute—if the purple pajamas are in the wash, she is
inconsolable (even though you have offered the pink ones, the polka dot ones, the ones with the cupcake patch on the front, etc.)
- He acts out when frustrated—will give up or get angry when he can’t figure out how to make the jack-in-the-box work
Your child is learning to manage strong feelings when he:
- Uses words or actions to get your attention or ask for help
- Talks to himself in a reassuring way when he is frustrated or frightened. For example, he might say to himself, Daddy will come back, after you drop him off at child care. Or, I can build this again after his block tower collapses
- Re-enacts a stressful event, like a doctor’s visit
- Uses words like I’m mad rather than throwing or hitting
- Tells you the rules or shows that she feels badly about breaking rules. For example, your child might say no to herself as she does something off-limits, like opening the fridge. Or he might tell you at the park, Don’t walk in front of the swings.
Kids who whine usually feel powerless and like they can’t cope; they often yust need a chance to cry!
Kids who are boosy and controlling worry that they won’t get their needs met!
Kids who taunt or compete with siblings often need to feel more valued for who they are, and more connected to parent!
Kids who don’t listen often don’t feel their desires are acknowledged!
Kids who rebel usually need a chance to feel more powerful and competent!
Kids who disrespect you are always showing you they don’t feel connected enough to you!