Toddler behaviours and emotions

During toddlerhood, children begin to learn how to control their behaviour including things like their reactions, feelings and emotions.

By age two, most toddlers know how to wait a short time for something. By age 3, toddlers may be able to share a toy for a short time.

This is a really important skill to develop as it helps your child become more independent, focus their attention for learning and build strong relationships.

Set reasonable limits

All children learn to manage their emotions through watching their parents manage their own feelings and behaviours.

Your child needs you to set firm but reasonable limits. It’s important to be consistent. These limits offer them security and protection from getting overwhelmed by too much responsibility before she or he is ready.

It’s easy to forget that young children are still trying to learn many things that we take for granted, such as understanding what is said to them. For example, you might think your child is simply not listening to you, but they may just be trying to figure out what someone said five minutes ago.

Young children are very interested in the world around them. This means that they often get distracted. Things that adults and older children take for granted – like a car horn sounding – can be completely new to your toddler.

Help your child learn to behave

Some tips for helping your child learn to behave include:

  • Always keep in mind that children learn from what you do, so be a positive role model.
  • Show your child how you feel about their behaviour.
  • Give your child positive feedback for behaviour that you approve of.
  • Kneel or squat down next to your child when you are talking to them.
  • Be patient and avoid raising your voice and keep instructions simple and positive.
  • Giving your child choices about appropriate things to help them learn decision-making.
  • Encourage your child to contribute to family life, letting them do some simple chores.

Thinking about others

When you start to introduce the concept of feelings to your child, they begin to manage their own emotions. By identifying different emotions (happy, angry, sad, hurt), they can better understand how they feel and how they make others feel.

It’s important you show your child that you care about others, and that they should too. You can let them help around the house and feed the family pet to help them understand responsibility and respect.