It might feel as if your growing toddler is getting more and more independent, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always know what to do with the feelings they experience in new situations such as starting nursery (when they might have to negotiate being in a large group of children for the first time), sharing toys with another child on a playdate or even having a new baby at home.
Being exposed to lots of new emotions often leaves children this age feeling quite unsettled, and many of the typical toddler behaviours you might face – such as throwing tantrums, or saying ‘No!’ a lot – actually come from your little one’s attempts to take back some control and make sense of their feelings.
Children who are going through this stage need as much consistency as you can give them. Having reliable routines and structure to their days – as well as firm boundaries in terms of what is and is not acceptable – will help them to feel safe and sure of themselves.
It can be difficult to stand your ground in the face of a full-on toddler tantrum (especially in public, when you just want to make it stop!), but be consistent and make sure they understand when ‘no means no’.
It might not always feel like it, but every tantrum or falling-out does help your 2-4 year old learn more about coping with their emotions and negotiating social situations.
Children do draw on past experiences and other occasions when they’ve felt frustrated or upset – and they will naturally use this to figure out how to handle things differently next time.
That’s why, for example, it’s always worth pausing before you dive in to defuse a tantrum, just to see if your little one is able to settle themselves down.
If not, stay close and offer them support and reassurance. It’s important for your child to know that they can seek out an adult when they are feeling particularly unsure or out of control.