As a toddler’s parent, your adult mind is always trying to make sense of what’s going through your kid’s mind. We know it happens! Questions like, “Why are you flopping on the ground?” “Why are you biting me for no particular reason?” “Why are you peeing while maintaining eye contact?” often haunts your mind. The biggest issue is that neither you come to know what they are thinking, nor can they tell you. Are you the parent or the nanny of your four-year-old champ? Are you desperately trying to find yourself to talk some sense into your child as she whines, cries, or freaks out even more? Are you trying to step into her shoes instead? Then these few points are surely going to give you a sneak peek into the mind of a four year old.
1. Kid’s mind: I don’t know how to say what I need to say.
I’m feeling big. Having scary feelings, and I don’t have the words to tell you how it feels. When bad feelings engulf me, I can’t think straight.
Here’s why: Toddlers feel bad just like adults do – they do feel angry, frustrated, sad, scared, confused, and so on.
As adults, what is the first thing we do when we have a negative emotion? We take a pause, think about it for a while, and then carefully decide how to react. Isn’t it? But the part of the brain responsible for stopping us, helping us think and decide how to react, isn’t fully developed in toddlers. And so when babies aged 0-3 feel negative emotions, their brain tries to drain the map, as a result, the emotion takes over them. This is when they start throwing temper tantrums.
What to do: Your little one needs your help to put words to her feelings. Labeling an emotion is one of the best ways to help them feel heard so that they can calm down and move forward.
2. Kid’s mind: Please tell me again.
When you say, “How many times do I need to tell you?” it seems like maybe you are annoyed with me. But I do need you, Mumma, to tell me lots and lots of times.
Here’s why: Your ability to distinct your attention, remember instructions, and control impulses come from your executive function skills. But guess who doesn’t have those skills yet? Your champ.
Suppose, on one side is your toddler, whose impulse is to color on the walls simply because it’s fun, and on the other side is his ability to control that impulse because you said he shouldn’t color on the walls. You will be surprised to see your little tot would instead choose not to listen to you. That’s because the two sides of their brain aren’t yet connected. You have to build a bridge.
What to do: The answer is we have to tell it over and over again. For their brain to learn, they need that repetition. So we need to keep reminding, comforting, and guiding them because Rome was not built in a day. Every single experience is building that bridge.
3. Kid’s mind: I Freak Out About Dogs, the Dark, Bugs, Automatic-Flushing Toilets, and so more!
I know my Momma can’t fathom why I become so calm when I see a huge dog. Well, parents often get anxious when they encounter a horse wanting to put its nose and teeth near their face! Then how do you think toddlers would be exceptional? Fears grow along with their imagination. Your toddler is capable of imagining what might be under the bed or in the toilet. But he doesn’t know enough about the world to understand why an alligator is real, but a monster isn’t.
4. Kid’s mind: I’m not trying to be difficult.
You seem to be frustrated with me right now, but I’m not trying to make you frustrated, Momma. I’m just trying to learn.
Here’s why: Picture this! Your toddler wants to make his cereal for breakfast, then ends up spilling milk all over the place. He says he would like to buckle your car seat himself, and it takes more than an hour. Sometimes you find him getting dressed by himself in short sleeves and shorts, but it’s summertime, and no matter how much you try to convince him, he is not ready to wear a long one. It’s bedtime, but your daughter keeps asking questions after questions and keeps you awake till late at night. Sometimes when it’s your time to go for an important meeting, you end up realizing that someone has unlaced all your shoelaces. Even though it feels like your toddler is out to get you, that’s not so! She isn’t intentionally trying to make a mess or keep you up all night. Toddlers need lots of life experiences to learn. They need to spill milk all over the counter a few times before they learn to slowly pour it out.
What to do: Whenever you would find yourself feeling annoyed or exasperated at your little ones, you must repeat a mantra to yourself: “Let her learn. Let her learn.” That’s usually enough to remind you to let her make her own mistakes. None of us are perfect. But these little habits will help you back off and let your toddler try on her way more often than you would do.
5. Kid’s mind: I’m not ignoring you.
I’m not getting what you want me to do, Momma!
Here’s why: It’s all about a little twist in psychology. For example, if you are asked not to think of an elephant right now, don’t you think you will definitely picture an elephant? Of Course, you will. And that’s 100 percent normal. Your toddler is no different.
When you ask them not to run in the house, what sticks in the mind of a four year old is simply: Run. Saying “don’t run” puts the focus on what you don’t want to let happen. Pretty much the opposite effect of what they would be going for.
So fear not, dear parents, you are neither crazy nor is your stubborn toddler is a lost case. Your baby is at a fascinating, important development stage of his brain where a potential side effect is grey hair for you. If you really want to sneak peek into your baby’s brain, you need to have loads of patience, caring ears to listen to what they say, and loads of love to offer. Rest everything will fall into its place!
What’s currently going on in the mind of your four-year-old? Have you tried to know? If you already have, we would love to know your side of the story!