Emotionally, they still rely on their primary caregiver for comfort and security, so maintaining consistent, positive and warm interactions is critical at this stage. They can also start to read facial expressions, so they can pick up on what you’re feeling without language or actions.
Developmentally, temper tantrums are an expected behavior because they haven’t developed frustration tolerance, and learning to establish control through trial and error is frustrating. Let them get frustrated. When we rescue them from frustration, we teach them that everything is easy and that the environment will give in to their tantrums.
Provide a safe and comforting response while validating their feelings, and reassure them that you love them and can help if they need it. Additionally, give them control through choices: Let them pick out their clothes, their foods, the books they want to read, and what bubbles to use in their bath. When they feel as though their opinions matter, they are less likely to tantrum with uncontrollable intensity and they learn problem-solving.
Topics to focus on in this age range include: body safety using anatomically correct terms, relationship rules such as taking turns and sharing, hygiene rules such as teeth brushing and hand washing, first aid rules such as telling an adult when they are hurt, and healthy nutritional choices including the importance of fruits, vegetables and exercise.
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