It is impossible to have a discussion about children and challenging behavior without considering how development factors into the equation. Let’s take your typical two-year-old for example. Everyone knows that the universal mantra for people at this stage in human development is the word “No”. No, no, no, and no, even when they mean yes. Before you begin to wonder if your child is on a path toward a diagnosis of Oppositional Deviance Disorder, you need to understand the reason why we act this way. At about the age of two, sometimes a few months earlier and sometimes a few months later, children begin to see themselves as human beings separate from the person or persons who they have consistently relied on for comfort and safety. There is a conflict going on at this stage. Toddlers know they need and rely on their family to meet their many needs, but at the same time, they feel driven to explore their world and declare themselves as individuals with their own ideas about how their daily experiences should go. It’s a constant tug-of-war in the minds of our two-year-olds, and this is one reason why they are often cranky.
Another reason why people this age are so emotional can be explained by brain development. From birth through the preschool years, children are building neuron brain connections rapidly, especially in that part of the part of the brain where cognitive learning occurs. While this process is taking place, young children are still relying heavily on that part of the brain where we experience emotions.
I often think about how these first attempts at initiating independence mirror that notable adolescent angst teenagers experience as they attempt to assert total independence from their parents. Perhaps you have experiences life with a two-year-old but have not yet experienced the joy of living with a teenager. Well, good luck! Just remember, though, that this is how humans develop. After all, achieving independence IS the ultimate goal parents are seeking for their children.
Katherine Generaux serves as the center’s Community Inclusion Specialist. In that position she has been effective in modeling appropriate interactions with young children with special needs. Her ongoing presence in the classrooms modeling best practices for infants and toddler is resulting in additional experience while making a positive difference in early childhood programming. She is very aware of what is developmentally appropriate and engaging with the children. Her birth through kindergarten degree and experience are evident in her service to children and families.