Hi there. I’m your toddler, and there’s a few things you really need to know about me. Knowing these things will make things better for all of us. Also, please let me have a cookie while you read this.
1. My Brain is a Toddler Too!
You know the part of your brain that is responsible for logical thinking, forming strategies and planning, foreseeing and weighing possible consequences for behavior, and impulse control? That’s called the prefrontal cortex, and mine is very underdeveloped! It doesn’t even really begin to develop until around age 4, and it won’t be mature until I’m in my 20’s!
That means I can’t possibly be manipulating you when I cry or have strong emotions. Manipulation requires forming strategies and planning. I’m really just having a hard time when I have a tantrum or act aggressively, and what I need is help.
The best way to make sure my prefrontal cortex grows strong is to show me what it looks like to use yours first, because I really like to imitate you, and then, when I’m a little older, help me practice using mine by teaching me ways to calm down, showing me how to empathize, and helping me learn how to problem-solve and think my way through problems. My brain and I will thank you when I grow up!
2. I Am NEEDY!
Related to the aforementioned underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, now you understand that my bedtime shenanigans and toileting woes are really not a master plan to drive you bonkers. Promise. It’s just that bedtime isn’t as fun as playing with you, and I like my diaper just fine.
Due to the whole wavering ability to foresee and weigh possible consequences and control my impulses, sometimes you might think I’m being naughty. Just try to understand that everything I do is to get a need met, because that’s my driving force right now. That only fully developed part of my brain (the brainstem) is all about getting my needs met. So, if you want me to go to bed, let’s make a sweet routine, snuggle a bit and I really like it when you rub my back.
3. I Am Whatever You Say I Am!
My self-concept is being formed right this minute, and right now, I see myself the way you see me. So, if you see me as naughty or bad, that’s how I’ll see myself. If you see me as kind and wonderful, that’s what I’ll think about me, too. Oh, and just so you know, I’ll always strive to live up (or down) to my self-concept; that’s what we humans do. If you want me to be good and kind and caring, catch me being those things and tell me! I like hearing you say nice things about me, and when you see me as a good person, I’ll want to behave like one.
4. Be Connected!