It can be challenging for parents to support their toddlers as they struggle to manage their feelings and behaviour. It can help to know what’s happening for them developmentally so you, as parents, can encourage their independence, help them learn and keep them safe. 

Between one and three years of age, children move from being babies who need you to do everything for them, to becoming separate, independent people.

Toddlers want your love and to feel safe and close to you, while also wanting freedom to explore and do things for themselves.  

Toddlers are… 

  • active and curious – they have to touch, open, shut, explore, run, climb and throw 
  • learning who they are – what they like and don’t like, and testing out their will 
  • learning to be in charge of themselves – to walk, talk, feed and dress themselves and use the toilet 
  • learning to live with others – how to show love, share and take turns, and to not hurt others 

Toddlers will often… 

  • say ‘no’ and show they have a mind of their own 
  • get angry and frustrated, and sometimes have a tantrum 
  • not be ready to share because they are just learning about ‘me’ and ‘mine’ (for a them, everything is ‘mine’) 
  • want to make some choices for themselves 
  • find it hard to cope with changes 
  • want to be like their parents, e.g. try on lipsticks, use parents’ phones and keys. 

Toddlers are not able to…

  • understand your reasons – they are not yet able  see things from your point of view 
  • sit still, wait, share or control their feelings – these things take time and support to learn 
  • always stop themselves from doing what they have been told not to – they don’t mean to disobey you. 

How can you help?

Toddlers are on the way to learning self-control but haven’t quite got there yet. They still need adults to gently remind them and keep them safe.

They are learning lots of new skills as they become more independent.  

Try to be patient. We, as adults, often expect too much of them. 

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Building good parent-child relationships 

Zero to Three – Positive Parenting Approaches