Why Are Toddlers So Moody?

Moodiness Reasons 1 & 2

Of Drama Queens and Kings

So why are toddlers so moody, and why are they so explosive when their moods shift gears? Lots of reasons, all of them purely developmental.

Reason #1: They can't communicate their wants and needs as well as they'd like to.

For kids between the ages of 1 and 3, the world is enormous, fascinating, and ever changing. It sounds great, but when you consider that most toddlers are under 3 feet tall and have a 20-word vocabulary, you start to realize how frustrating their lives can be.

When he was 2, Eric loved to color with crayons, according to his mom, Lisa McGonagle, who lives in Boston. The problem? He didn't know how to say "red," "yellow," and "blue," or how to ask for more crayons when his favorites broke. "In the middle of the activity he'd freak out for what seemed like no reason. But later, as he started to learn his colors, I realized he just couldn't find the blue or red crayon when he wanted it," says McGonagle.

What to do: Sometimes you're not going to be able to figure out what your child wants right away, "so stay calm and realize that the situation isn't anyone's fault," Dr. Levine says. "Then, try to help him by picking up items he might possibly want and labeling them." Say the name of each item out loud and point to it. It will help expand his vocabulary so he can tell you exactly what he wants in the future.

Reason #2: They have no concept of time.

"Delayed gratification" are two words no toddler on earth understands. Your child may know that he's thirsty, and may even tell you so. But when that juice box doesn't appear a nanosecond later, watch out. A calm afternoon can quickly turn stormy.

What to do: There's a big upside to this particular toddler phenomenon. Having no concept of time means that many toddlers get sidetracked very easily. Use this to your advantage! Despair over a delayed drink can quickly turn to joy over a sink full of bubbles, so always be at the ready with a distraction. You don't have to do a full-on juggling act. It just has to be appealing enough to warrant a change in attitude and activity.

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