Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of your toddler? It sometimes might feel as if they inhabit a completely different planet from you. Well, in some respects, they do!
A toddler’s brain looks completely different from an adult brain and the way they see the world is vastly different from the way we do as adults. Having an understanding of why your toddler behaves in the way that they do will help you to see the world from their point of view and give you some ideas how to respond in a more effective way.
At birth, a baby is born with only about 25% of its brain developed. By the age of 3, millions of connections have been formed in the brain but there is still lots of development needed.
The easiest way to think about it is to imagine the brain as split into 3 parts – the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain and the thinking brain. A toddler hasn’t yet made the connections between all 3 areas and most of their behaviour is controlled by the reptilian brain (which is responsible for essential things like breathing, hunger and thirst) and the mammalian brain (which is responsible for emotions). The thinking brain lets us think rationally. Toddlers have not yet developed the connections to this part of their brain. This is why so much of their behaviour looks completely irrational to those of us who can use this thinking bit of our brains.
One consequence of this incomplete brain development is the complete egocentricity that we see in our toddlers. They are literally incapable of seeing the world from anyone else’s point of view except for their own. A toddler snatching a toy from another child has no ability at this age to understand why the other child might be upset. They also don’t understand why we are mad when they have emptied our expensive make up and face creams all over the floor to draw pictures with them!
Watching our toddlers have a tantrum can sometimes be frustrating. It might seem as if they are going crazy over something that is completely unimportant. If we stop though, and think about where their brains are in relation to ours, it is easy to see some important differences.
For a start, we have used all of our years experience and rationality to think about the situation and might come to the conclusion that not getting the sweet at that moment in time, isn’t actually that big of a deal. For the toddler though, it is a completely different situation. Remember, they are mostly operating out of the bit of the brain that controls emotions and have no ability to rationalise the situation. So, not getting the sweet is a major catastrophe and intensely frustrating. They are overtaken by the big negative feelings that the frustration has left them with and don’t know how to handle them. So, they have a meltdown.
If they could communicate their feelings to us by talking, they might be saying “I feel tired, overwhelmed and scared. I don’t know how to handle this big feeling that I am having”. Can you imagine ignoring your child or telling them off if they had just told us this in words?
Luckily, there are some things that we can do to help our toddlers feel less frustrated or overwhelmed:
- By helping a toddler to feel more in control of what is going on around them, we can reduce the potential for frustration.
- Letting your child lead when you are playing together can be helpful, or giving them more control by letting them help to prepare the meals or do the shopping etc.
- A very effective way to help them to communicate what they need is by doing a signing class together. Baby and toddler signing is an incredible way of reducing frustration in you and your baby. Baby Signing has been shown to cut down toddler tantrums by half!
- Finally, truly understanding your toddlers world can help you to respond with more empathy. Rather than shout or lose our temper, we might find it easier to try and figure out what our toddler is trying to communicate to us.
Come along to our new ToddlerCalm classes and workshops and our sing and sign classes for lots more ideas and tips when it comes to managing our toddler’s behaviour more effectively. ToddlerCalm classes can help with all aspects of toddler behaviour or just come along to our toddlerclam sleep workshop or toddlercalm tantrum workshop for some great tips!
As a special introductory offer, we are offering 20% off any ToddlerCalm workshop or course for this month only. Simply quote toddlercalm 20% offer when booking.
This month we are also launching our fabulous new Baby Signing with Happy Ears course.
This is a fantastically fun five week course where we all learn signs and sing along to a great CD of music created for us by local Edinburgh musician, Oliver Ridgewell from Happy Ears.
In the last two weeks of the course we run through all the signs and the songs to live music.
Fabulous Orkadian fiddler, Sarah McFadyen, and singer-songwriter, Ruth Barrie bring the songs to life for us all in a wonderful jam session.
The course is also fully British Sign Language based (with around 300 signs!) so you are learning something useful for you as well as discovering a whole new way of communicating with your little one before they can talk.
Our next course starts on 29th May. Please come and join in the fun!
Find out more or book onto these courses by contacing Onie or Sarah at KnotStressed.