Social and Emotional Development

Your toddler's social and emotional development enters a new phase as his own identity begins to develop.

He wants to make choices, do things himself and in the process be very assertive. Don't say I didn't warn you!


The Importance of Social and Emotional Development

Your toddler like to get his own way. Isn't that synonym to being toddler?

They go through different stages of social development. From the age of about 15 months onwards, they become very self-absorbed. When he wants something, he expects to get it right away and he isn't bothered by the fact that you are worn out or that he's been nagging you all day. As far as he is concerned, he comes first and your thoughts an feelings don't exist.

And it's not just that he would prefer to be in charge - he insists on it If you don't let him do what he wants he may explode with temper. It's almost as if your child is outraged by your impertinence at not doing what he wants you to do at the exact moment he wants you to do it. The dogged determination of your furious toddler knows absolutely no limits.


Anti Social Behavior

This type of behavior in adults would be described as selfishness, but that description doesn't apply when it comes to toddlers. Their behavior is "egocentric" or "anti social behavior" in the true sense of the word, rather than "selfish".

He is egocentric because he literally can't understand anybody else's point of view. There have been many psychological investigations that confirm that toddlers struggle to consider how other people think and feel.

This stage of egocentricity - which may last until around the age of 3 or 4 years - affects your childhood social development in a number of ways:

  • low tolerance of frustration - His egocentricity means that he is totally shocked the moment his wishes are blocked, whether by you or because he simply can't achieve his target.

He may experience a sudden surge of frustration that overwhelms him - he just can't believe that he can't get what he wants, when he wants it.

  • social indifference - When you observe your 15 month old toddler playing in the company of other children of the same age, you'll notice how unaware they are of each other's feelings.

Egocentricity means that one child will thoughtlessly snatch a toy from another child's hand without asking simply because he wants to have it.

  • frequent anger - When you have to draw the line with your child aged 2 or 3 years, he'll probably be furious with you.

He can't accept that you have set rules for him to follow; from his perspective, his feelings come first and it doesn't matter to him that you are the parent and he is the child.

Remember, though, that your development emotional toddler is still a wonderful, loving child who gives much love to you and to others in his family.

Despite the increase in toddler tantrums and other frustrations, there are plenty of times when he is settled and when you have great fun just enjoying his company.

Enjoy these frequent moments, and do your best to avoid them becoming overshadowed by the more challenging episodes.



Despite this surge of determination and independence, your toddler remains vulnerable in his social and emotional development.

This same child, who only a few minutes ago howled at you angrily because you had the nerve to ask him to stop playing with his toys in order to prepare for this bath, now clings to you sobbing because he can't find his favorite cuddly toy.

Self confidence is easily rocked at this stage, turning happiness into distress, laughter into tears, in the flicker of an eye. By now, his self concept is also more clearly defined.

And the same applies to your child's sociability. You will have noticed that he enjoys the company of other children, although he doesn't yet have the social and emotional development skills necessary to play cooperatively with them.

When he is with his peers, he stares at them curiously and appears comfortable and contented in their company. But all it takes is another toddler to approach him unexpectedly, and before you know it he rushes over to you for protection because he is afraid.


Support and Sensitivity

The contrast between the assertiveness and determination of your growing child and his obvious emotional vulnerability means that you need to handle his changing moods sensitively.

On the one hand, his temper tantrum will push you to the absolute limits of your tolerance and you will need plenty of resolve to withstand his demands. On the other hand, he needs your affection and support when he is upset.

You can help your child by teaching him what is acceptable behavior and what is not, by giving him lots of love to increase his sense of security, by offering him help and advice when he faces challenges that are too demanding, ad by suggestions ways that he can learn to mix better with other children.


Expert Advice

Looking for more questions and answers about social and emotional development in children?

Also be sure to visit all the social and emotional development pages for different ages.




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