Why Are Toddlers So Moody?
“Alfredo has multiple personalities,” jokes his mother. She tells me that one second he’s fine and then, if he can’t get his puzzle together, gets really prickly and starts screaming.
“I don’t want to tell you what happens if I put the meat and gravy too close to his vegetables.”
So I am wondering why so much drama over a little gravy?
The majority of these ups and downs are a very normal part of growing up, and it’s important not to mistake them for misbehavior, according to a child psychiatrist.
But I don’t care what the experts say; Alfredo’s mom was frustrated by his mood swings.
And I don’t blame her! This is my favorite story: Alfredo gets in one of his moods and tells her he wants ice cream. They get on the freeway and sit in traffic for over an hour just to take Alfredo to his favorite ice cream shop. They finally get there, grab ice cream and get back in the car to go home. Once in the car, Alfredo changes his mind and dumps his cone in the back seat of the car.
We all know that some toddlers become drama queens and kings – Alfredo being one of them. But, why are they so moody and explosive at times?
Lots of reasons, I’ve been told, and all of them purely developmental.
Toddlers can’t communicate their wants and needs as well as they’d like to.
Problem #1 – Lack of Vocabulary: Between the ages of 1 and 3, the world is enormous, fascinating and ever-changing. It sounds great, but most toddlers are little people with only a 20-word vocabulary, so their lives can be frustrating.
What to do: Sometimes you’re not going to be able to figure out what your child wants right away, so stay calm and realize that the situation isn’t anyone’s fault. Then, try to help him by picking up items he might possibly want and labeling them. Say the name of each item out loud and point to it.
Problem #2 – No Concept of Time: Your child may know that he’s thirsty, and may even tell you so. But when that juice box doesn’t appear immediately, watch out.
What to do: There’s a big upside to this particular toddler phenomenon. Having no concept of time means that many toddlers get sidetracked very easily. Anger over a delayed drink can quickly turn to joy over a sink full of bubbles, so always be at the ready with a distraction.
Problem #3 – Trouble Switching from One Task to the Next: Kids get very focused on one activity, and then we expect them to change gears instantly. This sort of transition takes a toll on even an adult mind, so those expectations are way too high for children.
What to do: Take advantage of your child’s burgeoning skills. Toddlers have a solid understanding of sequencing; they are well aware of how one action follows the next. Activity changeovers can be eased with warnings that come early and often.
In the bath, say, “Now we’re going to wash your hair and then rinse it. After we rinse it, we’re getting out of the bath.”
Problem #4 – Getting Tired or Hungry Very Quickly: Some toddlers tucker out within three hours of waking up in the morning. And, unlike older kids, toddlers don’t fuel up at meals because they tend to graze all day. You won’t be surprised to learn that tired, hungry kids are moody kids who cry on a dime.
What to do: First, try to plan your day around nap time. Don’t schedule play dates or doctor appointments during the nap zone.
And, I don’t visit Alfredo’s house unless I know he has had his nap.
Related Topics: Behavioral Issues
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