Why Are Toddlers So Difficult?

Why won't my toddler just listen?

          Toddlers are tough! They just seem to have so much energy and it can often be difficult for us adults to figure them out.  In order to help your toddler learn the skills they need to become civilized little humans, it’s important to understand why your toddler is being so unruly. We must understand the reasons before we can shape the behaviour.

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They are early in their emotional development.

            A toddler’s brain is still developing! It’s in a very important stage in their lives where they feel stressors differently than we do. A stressor to us is being late for work, but a stressor to your toddler is hearing the words “no”, “take your turn”, or “just a minute”. Their developing brains will immediately go into the fight-flight-freeze reactions, which will cause those difficult behaviours. They have underdeveloped executive functioning skills, such as problem-solving and self-soothing to cope with stressors. Imagine how difficult it would be to handle our own stressors without the ability to problem solve!

Their brain is egocentric.

          It's all about "ME ME ME!"  A toddler’s brain has not developed any adaptive skills and their perspective is extremely limited. They think that everyone experiences and sees the same thing as them. They don’t understand that other people have different thoughts, needs, and desires.

            Sometimes I’ll hear a parents say “my toddler just acts so selfish”, and this is actually true! But it’s not their fault; it’s really just where their brain is in their development.

They’re learning the power of language.

            Imagine the first time that your toddler yelled “no” in your face. They probably got a big, emotional response from you. At that moment, your toddler began to understand how empowering language and their own reactions can be. And from then on, they’ve tried to use it to their advantage. They yell no or they fall to the floor crying in order to get a big reaction from you and take control of their environment. As frustrating for you as it is, this is all part of the brain’s natural development.

            The great part of all of this is that it’s going to be okay! Because with evidence-based solutions, we can teach toddlers self-esteem, self-regulation, and self-soothing – all skills that will help them become cooperative and successful.



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Your behaviour guide and coach, Stephanie Wicker-Campbell, has been supporting families just like yours for almost fifteen years! Teaching special needs children and studying early intensive behaviour intervention for over six years laid the foundation for her work with Simply Kids. Grounded in behaviour science, Stephanie's passion for counselling and developmental psychology play a big role in her coaching programs. Defining success by the progress of her clients, her goal is to no longer be needed. So, get in touch and work her out of a job!

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Stephanie Wicker