How Toddler Develop Their Thoughts

development modeling toddler

R and I go to an early child and family education class once a week. One day we discussed executive function and how it relates to children. The parent educator broke it down to three basic categories. 

Working memory, flexibility, and inhibitory control.

Here are the examples:

Working memory = ability to bring something from point A to point B. i.e. bring this item over to daddy.

Flexibility = ability to be adapt to a new ideas, toys, places. Change of plans from what they want to do. i.e. We aren’t going to go outside right now in the rain, what is something else you would like to do inside for the time being?

Inhibitory control = ability to control emotions (energy in motion), an energy that comes in to their body and they need to express it. i.e. kiddo gets mad and hits to express that emotion

Theses are all skills we can start to observe in our kiddo as they become more independent (become a toddler). These skills typically develop quickly between the ages of 3-5 and then again during early adolescent years but don’t fully develop until age 25-27. The parent educator also mentioned their physical brain reverts back to toddler function during the early adolescent years. So, keep that in the back of your mind as they continue to grow.

Our toddlers need to borrow our regulation to learn how to control emotions. We can model to them an appropriate reaction to a situation, we can remove them from a situation to teach them that its okay to set that boundary, we can tell them words to say during a situation.

Examples of these:

Kiddo gets frustrated they aren’t able to put the ball through the hole in the toy and starts to cry. Parent models taking deep breathes in through the nose and out the mouth and slowly shows how to put the ball in the hole.

Kiddo doesn’t have the words to say stop to someone being in their face and they get frustrated and hit or bite. Parent picks kiddo up before the action happens.

Same scenario as above - after removing kiddo you can tell them, this is how you say stop and place your hand out. Teaching them to set boundaries on their personal space and keep their own body safe. If the other person can’t respect that boundary you remove your child from the situation to respect their own wishes.

Kiddo is in your arms and you are busy cooking dinner or talking. Kiddo bites your shoulder to try and get your attention because they don’t have words. Parent can say - you can say mama instead of biting or you can touch my face, but I am going to set you down now to keep my body safe. I can’t let you bite me.

Eventually, they will be able to use all these skill to decide if they can hit the snooze button on their alarm and adjust their routine to get to where they need to be on time still. That is all of these skills shown in one task.

It’s all about modeling to our children. They are always watching us just as much as we are watching them to make sure they stay safe. Model them what it’s like to be kind, caring, loving, fun, silly, joyful, playful, happy, and everything else the world could use more of. It is up to you as the parent to model the emotions you hope they will express when you are not around.

Lastly, give yourself grace. We all loose our temper or cool at times. Model and speak the words of what happened during your expression of the tough emotions. Teach them that it’s okay to loose their cool but then regain control again. It’s all modeling, it’s all learning.

Information was presented from the Center of the Developing Child - Harvard University

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