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Toddler Feelings & Emotions

Emotional Roller Coasters

Does it seem as if your toddler is always “in a mood”? While often frustrating, it’s completely normal for your little one to be laughing one moment and crying the next. It’s part of his or her emotional development.

A child who works on understanding his feelings and empathizing with others now will have a strong emotional foundation for adulthood. You can help with this.

Try to stand nearby during a social interaction between your toddler and a peer or other family member. You can step in as a positive back-up if things get tense—talking about feelings (both your child’s and the other person’s), cuddling your child and offering distractions when needed.

All of this helps your child grow emotionally.

Observing Emotions

Are babies and toddlers affected by adult emotions, even when those emotions aren't directed at them?

The answer is yes.

In 2 different studies, researchers looked at how children responded to adults who displayed anger and sadness. What they found was that even the youngest among us tune into our vibes.

In the first study, researchers found that infants were more hesitant to play with a toy when an adult had displayed anger toward someone else playing with that toy. It was clear that the infants feared the adult would be angry with them, too.

In the second study, researchers found that 18-month-old children displayed empathy and tried to cheer up adults who expressed sadness over a stolen toy.

These two studies demonstrate the degree to which children seek the approval and positive feedback of adults.

It stands to reason, then, that controlling our emotions can help kids with their own emotional development.

Need Ways to Control Your Own Emotions?

Here are some tips from the Zero to Three Foundation:

  1. Tune in to your emotions to understand why you’re feeling the way you are.
  2. Tune in to and validate your child's emotions.
  3. Ignore toddler behaviors meant to manipulate you.
  4. Set limits for your child and provide choices for handling his or her own emotions.

Learn how to respond to toddler temper tantrums.