Child Development

Emotional Development of 2 year olds – Part 2

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Emotional Development of 2 year olds – Part 2

In Part 1 of Emotional Development of 2 year olds, I briefly explained how the 2 year old brain works and why it’s not capable of acting rationally. This part of the series talks about how to deal with your child with empathy and understanding, without losing your marbles.

Helping your 2 year old navigate their emotions

Now that you know that there is a long road ahead of you before your child acts more rationally than emotionally, let’s talk about how to make this road a smoother one for everyone involved. This is a great short list of milestones for your 2 year old to help understand what to expect from them. As I mentioned before, learning happens from environmental exposure, so you as a parent, can do a lot to help your child master their emotional regulation.

Setting Age Appropriate Expectations

The first thing to concentrate on is setting the right expectations for your child. If you want your 2 year old to understand delayed gratification, expect a lot of push back. They don’t have a concept of time yet and can’t understand the concept of being able to do something later. Typically, telling them to wait would result in a meltdown.

A better strategy would be to work with a timer every time. You can tell them, they have 5 minutes on the timer, when it beeps, they can go do what they wanted to do. Be prepared to repeat this multiple times (more than 10) before they grasp the concept. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes. You just have to stay consistent. The synapses for delayed gratification will strengthen and the connections will be solidified if you keep using this method.

Creating Appropriate Consequences

Next, we need to make sure that we put appropriate consequences in place. Consequences do not equal punishment, however. They should not be punitive and not made out of anger or frustration. For example, if your child keeps throwing toys around, it is appropriate to give a couple of warnings that if they do it on more time, you will have to put the toy away. The important thing, is to not repeat yourself (giving 2-3 warnings should be the limit) and actually carry through with the consequence. They can’t learn proper behavior if you don’t follow through. However, they will learn that your threats are meaningless and they can get away with things if they just persist enough. After the toy is taken away, expect a meltdown. And instead of being frustrated with it, look at it as a teaching moment.

Those meltdowns are the perfect times for us to name the emotions for our children and teach them how to deal with those emotions. You can give them a hug and identify their emotion. “You are feeling sad because mommy took away your toy. Mommy was also sad when she asked you to not throw it and you did not listen. Why don’t we take a break and when you calm down, we can try playing with the toys again”. Whatever you choose to tell them make sure you name the emotion for them and your tone is as calm as you can manage.

Some parting words

Emotional Development of 2 year olds - Part 2

I know this seems over simplified and in a way it is. But the point of this post was to give a brief overview and explanation of why your toddler behaves the way they do.

I understand that things aren’t always textbook simple. We have fought through 2 hour tantrums where we felt that we got to a good spot, only to say something that would set our son off again. And it’s ok. It’s part of learning. The important part is to keep in mind that this is getting your child closer to being able to work through their emotions.

So there you have it. Your 2 year old’s brain and emotional development in a nutshell. If you have anything to add or have any questions, please, respond in the comments section.

Quote of the Day

Emotional Development of 2 year olds - Part 2

Mental Health Tip of the Day

Sometimes we find it hard to be patient with our children. When we are depleted emotionally or physically, it’s difficult to be empathetic towards them. If you find yourself in this situation, I would encourage you to take a break and reconnect with yourself. Because when you are refreshed, you can give the best to your children.

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36 thoughts on “Emotional Development of 2 year olds – Part 2

  1. I found that timer strategy is a real solution. Both part of this story are amazing. Every parent feel so much love and expectations for their kids. So this topic is on point to set age appropriate expectations and understand the emotional change.

  2. The follow-through on a warning is so important! My son figured it out pretty quickly that I wouldn’t follow through when I failed to do so a few times. Now, he’s 3, and we use a choice system. Two choices – the easy way or the hard way. And we do a count down – if he doesn’t respond with his choice, he knows it’s going to be the hard way. 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing, Margaret. Yes, not following through is a pitfall of so many of us. And the choice system is great. Ours loves picking choice C that is never given. Lol.

  3. The hardest part for me is setting age appropriate expectations. Sometimes I know I ask to much of my toddler when I tell her to wait “5 minutes” or that something can be done “in a little while”. I love the timer idea. Will give it a shot!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Kristen. Yes, I think we all forget and set wrong expectations for our kids. I hope the timer works for you. It worked very nicely for us.

  4. My kids are getting older, and it is easy to forget what it was like when they were this age. This is a great age, because kids can really do some fun stuff, but they are also pushing boundaries and testing things.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Marysa. Yes, the pushing and testing is so hard. But it is fun watching them grow and become their own people.

  5. All I can say is cherish these moments. I know everyone says that but so true that they grow so quickly. That part about patience is so true, even now as a grandmother who is very active int eh raising of my grandson- its so hard sometimes.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Stacy. Yes, staying patient with little ones is so difficult but when you have good moments, it’s easy to forget the bad ones.

  6. I absolutely loved this! So relatable because we went through this with our 3 year old when she was two, and now getting ready for it with our 1 year old who will be 2 soon.

  7. Sometimes navigating emotions as an adult it difficult. I often think about how extremely hard it must be for our tiniest humans to wade through all of those. Patience is definitely a must with them, as is letting them know it is ok to feel the way they are feeling!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Jessica. I totally agree with you. I feel that we expect kids to act more mature than the adults that surround them.

  8. I have a two year old but because he’s my third I’m thankful to have learned all these things prior. Toddlers can be so hard but that’s if we don’t understand their developmental milestone. I love how you walk parents through every step and differentiate between consequences and punishment. LOVE this post!!!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Heather. Yes, it’s hard. I struggle with it too. In the moment, most of my knowledge goes out the window.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Sarah. Yes, I agree with you. Helping them understand and process what they’re going through is very important.

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