Toddler Behaviors and Emotions-Hurt Feelings


Toddler behaviors can leave a lot of parents scratching their heads for answers. 

Why does my toddler refuse to share toys? Why does my toddler laugh when put in time-out? Why is my toddler hitting me while I am on the phone?  

If we are consciously or subconsciously remembering what generations of our parents, their parents, and their parents have done, it is almost instinctual to think that the toddler is deliberately trying to disobey, misbehave, or act out.

Once that instinct kicks in, we become frustrated, dysregulated, and may resort to punishment that ends up increasing or worsening the behavior. Then, we become REALLY frustrated and may resort to yelling, etc.

What if, however, we were to practice a mindful awareness that behaviors our form(s) of communication?

Especially with tiny humans who have very limited vocabularies. Additionally, we can see a DECREASE and a lessening in the severity of these behaviors by following a few simple steps.


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Let's explore this! 

I am almost certain every parent of a toddler has seen their toddler laughing when scolded, crying excessively, hitting themselves or others, refusing to share, or taking toys from siblings/friends, etc.

What may seem like commonplace misbehavior is actually your toddler trying to tell you they have hurt feelings or are experiencing sadness.

What your toddler is unable to tell you with words, they will communicate with some of the behaviors listed above. It may be easy to assume they are trying to upset us, but in actuality, they are communicating that THEY are upset, to us. 


A step-by-step process

  1. It is oh so important to start by validating the child's feelings. We can let them know things like, "You are having big feelings right now. I can see that you are sad or frustrated."

    When we validate, the toddler can begin to understand that their feelings are very real and also VERY okay! We are essentially teaching them how to express their emotions versus suppress them.

  2. Role model emotional regulation. We can do this by speaking in a calm voice, keeping our physical bodies calm, and using kind, validating language.

    Have you heard of the heartbeat hug?

    There is actually science behind this. When babies are brand new to this world, they feel the most relaxed when they can hear the calm and regulated heartbeat of a parent.

    This carries all the way through into adulthood, so it definitely applies to the toddler. You can embrace your toddler and hold them close to your heart while watching them begin to co-regulate and come down from their escalation.

  3. Set the boundary. We don't need to give in to the tantrums or acquiesce to get the toddler's demands. We can continue to validate calmly but also let them know things like, "You are sad you cannot be on your tablet anymore. It is okay to feel sad but it is not okay to hit me."

    "You are sad that Mommy cannot give you her attention right now. It is okay to feel sad but it is not okay to hit baby brother." 

The trick is to realize that what may seem like 'misbehavior' is really your toddler saying, "I need you to help me calm down and figure things out."


To Wrap It Up

So, as parents in the year 2021, almost 2022, let's continue to break these generational cycles by listening to our toddlers, validating their emotions, helping them co-regulate, and foster the development of logic and reasoning in their growing minds. 


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June 17th, 2024

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