Anatomy of a Meltdown
By the time a child is 2, she is capable of experiencing a full range of emotions, says Robert Marvin, Ph.D., a professor of child psychiatry at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. But unlike an older child, a 2-year-old has only just begun to develop cognitive skills to make sense of those feelings -- and to control them. That fact, coupled with a toddler's limited attention span, results in what seems like a wildly fluctuating emotional seesaw.
At this age, a child is taking her first steps toward independence, and her own accomplishments can be a source of great joy. When she completes a new task, such as drawing with crayons or piecing together a puzzle, she will burst with pride. But when the puzzle pieces don't fit or when she's stopped from coloring on the wallpaper, she'll display her dissatisfaction -- in no uncertain terms.