Toddler’s emotional development can be very frustrating for parents. Suddenly your baby has grown up a little, has their own feelings and is clearly trying to work out how to manage them. It’s a difficult time for all parents and children.
There are a few things to remember as you begin to help your child learn to manage their emotions.
First of all, you have a very important role in your toddler’s emotional development! You are the parent, the one whom their existence revolves around.
This is a big responsibility and one which you will not regret learning about or implementing with your child.
Second, your toddler is not going to learn emotional intelligence by a few activities alone.
This involves extended effort, calm teaching, and using those ‘teachable moments’ over time.
Third, you totally have this in hand, for these reasons:
- You are the parent. You know your child best!
- You have the most effective opportunity and reason to give your child emotional intelligence skills.
3 Ways to Teach Your Toddler Emotional Development
Using these three activities for toddler emotional development, you can begin to teach your child immediately.
1: Discuss facial expressions
Using questions such as ‘What does my face look like?’ and ‘Can you make a sad face for me?’ give your child the incentive to actually look at and notice faces.
Many young children may not think about faces, or what they are telling them in the same way that adults do unless it is pointed out. It’s so helpful to talk about faces and even body language as your child gets older!
Have them look at pictures of people with different emotions on their faces or discuss how the person feels in a tv show, movie, or story book as they’re reading or watching.
2: Be honest about your own emotions.
Many parents unintentionally give off a disapproval of emotions, or even try to hide their own emotions from their children.
Of course you don’t need to be totally emotional in front of your child constantly as this can be unhealthy. However, how will your child understand what emotions even look like, unless we let them know in a practical way?
There are 2 more benefits to being honest about our own emotions:
- By being aware of your emotions for your child, you become aware of them yourself (think eating healthier when you had to start feeding your child healthy food!)
- Our kids have a real, practical, and relevant example in front of them daily, showing how people can live through, process, and healthily manage their own emotions (hopefully!).
There is nothing wrong with telling your child that you feel frustrated with the postman delivering the wrong package, for instance. But finish it with ‘Now how can I feel a bit happier again? I might read a story with my favourite person!’ (your child)
Or ‘Oh no, you broke my favourite vase! I know it was an accident, so I’m not angry with you, but I am a bit sad that it’s broken. What do you do when you feel sad?’
It’s important to make sure you don’t make your child feel undue guilt, but they are allowed to understand that their actions have consequences too- even if they are accidents!
3: Teach your child what to do when they don’t know what to do.
This is such an important part of helping your child build emotional intelligence. Giving them a couple of easy-to-follow strategies will help them begin to actively understand what to do when they are overwhelmed.
Feeling like they are out of control and don’t know how to manage it can exaggerate the issue for small children. Throw in a parent who then tells them off for trying to manage their emotion the best way they can-and you have a child who just doesn’t know where to turn or what to do!
Follow some of these guidelines to give your toddler some guidance on how to manage those big, overwhelming emotional moments:
- Give them a physical strategy– running to the door and back 3 times, jumping on the trampoline, or hugging a pillow. Getting physical is key to helping remove the energy from those big emotions so your child can start to be calm.
- Give them a ‘where to go’ strategy– Moving to the calm corner, sitting in a certain chair with certain books and reading for a minute can help. Make sure they know where their safe and calm zone is so they can go there when they need.
- Give them firm, but calm, verbal encouragement. Let your child know you are here and that you are helping them manage themselves, but that you are not angry at them (this can be helpful to say, even if you are annoyed!)
DON’T FORGET kindness
When using these strategies for toddler emotional development, there is one thing that needs to be present beyond all else. Kindness. (and love, obviously)
Kindness is the bridge between your child knowing you care (like, you look after them regularly and cuddle them sometimes) and that you really care about how they are feeling right now. It shows that you are doing everything you can to help them move through this hard moment.
This shows you are understanding of their struggle and empathetic towards them, but also gives them a feeling of trust and safety towards you. This is the key to parenting an emotional child with connection even though that means you will still regularly have those out-of-control moments with your child!
Do you feel overwhelmed by your child’s big emotions? I hope these Toddler Emotional Development Strategies can help you in your parenting!
Additionally, download your Free Emotion Strategy printable here. This will help mums react more calmly towards an emotional child!
Hi, I’m Miranda Hodge, and I run Smart Mama Smart Kids Parenting. I’m an Australian mama of 3, parenting coach and blogger at smartmamasmartkids.com. I help parents understand and connect with their small child, and offer online coaching, courses and classes for mums who want to be positive parents. I provide emotional intelligence management strategies for parents of small children, independence, healthy boundaries and help mums build a real connected relationship with their children. See my blog for more info! Smart Mama Smart Kids Blog
Instagram: @smartmamasmartkids | Facebook: Smart Mama Smart Kids