Understanding Your Toddler

Understanding Your Toddler

Tod­dler­hood is about devel­op­ing a sense of self, and show­ing a desire for inde­pen­dence with auton­omy. She may expe­ri­ence sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, and her emo­tions are apparent.

The tod­dler craves inde­pen­dence, but he fears deser­tion.” ~ Dorothy Corkville Briggs

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Your tod­dler, age between eigh­teen months to three years, is in a state of tran­si­tion. She is start­ing to develop her sense of self and she will soon develop new rela­tion­ships. Dou­glas Davies, the author of ‘Child Devel­op­ment,’ says that this is a dif­fi­cult time because becom­ing an indi­vid­ual requires sep­a­ra­tion. Remem­ber that it will be eas­ier if she knows that she can rely on you for love, com­fort and reas­sur­ance. Your role is unique, and you can pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties and expe­ri­ences at home to enrich your child’s life.

Davies sug­gests that your tod­dler may expe­ri­ence sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety from the eight to the twenty-fourth month, and become clingy and resis­tant to sep­a­ra­tion. She may exhibit fear and anx­i­ety in the pres­ence of other peo­ple, and throw tem­per tantrums. Be sym­pa­thetic, pro­vide com­fort and reas­sur­ance, and avoid forc­ing her into dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions. Feel­ing safe and secure will help her out­grow sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety. Your tod­dler is matur­ing emo­tion­ally; how­ever, her emo­tions are appar­ent and she is likely to be eas­ily over­whelmed and frus­trated. Help her cope and express emo­tions by your calm and patient demeanor.

Your child will develop auton­omy over time, show a desire for inde­pen­dence, and resist care-giving rou­tines. Joni Levine rec­om­mends pro­vid­ing her with oppor­tu­ni­ties for inde­pen­dence, and rec­og­nize her efforts and accom­plish­ments. She will wish for some degree of con­trol and power with inde­pen­dence. Feel­ing a sense of auton­omy and power is an impor­tant mile­stone. Remem­ber that restrict­ing this area can make her doubt­ful of her abil­i­ties, reluc­tant to try things, or act inde­pen­dently. How­ever; if your tod­dler becomes defi­ant or behaves out of spite, man­age her with patience and humor. Remem­ber that your tod­dler has not yet devel­oped an under­stand­ing of the world from the per­spec­tive of other peo­ple, mak­ing shar­ing and empa­thetic behav­ior a challenge.

Davies, D. (2010). Child Devel­op­ment (3rd Ed.). New York: Guil­ford Press.
Levine, J. (2006). The Every­thing Tod­dler Activ­i­ties Hand­book. Mass­a­chu­setts: Adams Media.
Puck­ett, M., Black, J., Wittmer, D. & Petersen, S. (2008). The Young Child. New Jer­sey: Pren­tice Hall Higher Education.