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Understanding Your Child

Understanding Your Child

You’re trying to sit them in that little spot atop the grocery cart, and they let their little body go limp. Angry protests fall from their adorable pout, “NO!” What feels like forever but is actually just minutes of tears and unsettled behavior ensues. You feel your cheeks blush as a wave of warmth washes over your body. What is going on here? It feels like every day for the last few weeks has been a struggle with your child – their behavior is challenging and they’re difficult to manage.

Little People and Big Emotions

First, if this sounds even a little familiar… if you’ve ever found yourself wondering where your cute and once calm partner in crime disappeared to, you’re in good company. Those of us in the trenches of parenthood refer to these trying seasons as the “terrible twos” or “treacherous threes,” but in the scientific community these seasons represent marked stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium in your child’s development. Stages where your child may transition from a calm, confident, easier to live with state where behavior is smooth to one that finds them unsettled, difficult to manage, and uneasy with themselves and the world. These stages of calm and unsettled begin at birth and ebb and flow well through the teen years as children are growing and evolving.

What to expect when expecting changes...

During the first year, your baby is in a near constant state of growth and learning - often experiencing these transitions from one stage to another on a weekly basis. Then beginning around 18 months these stages start to occur less often or around every 6 months during the toddler, preschool and kindergarten years, until the age of 6.

Now the frequency of these tough seasons may seem overwhelming, but truly knowledge is power here. When we know more about what is taking place for our kids we’re better prepared to support our children and ourselves. For example, during stages of disequilibrium (think ‘terrible twos’) your toddlers will be hard at work mastering new physical and social skills, so one way to support them would be to avoid introducing any big changes like new sleeping arrangements or potty-training. Also take heart, mama - when they throw a tantrum or struggle, they don’t do it at you. Try to remember, it’s about what’s going on for them developmentally, it’s not personal. This would be a time to give lots of extra hugs.

We all have an inherent desire for calm and to be at equilibrium, so these periods of growth are difficult for you both.

  Common ages for disequilibrium:

18 mo, 2 ½, 3 ½, 4 ½, 5 ½

Common ages for equilibrium:

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 

Key points to remember when it comes to stages of disequilibrium: they are normal, they are a sign that new skills are being acquired, and they are temporary. Be patient during the tough months and truly savor the easier (not necessarily always easy) times of equilibrium. After all, these peaks and valleys represent what life is all about.

Changing patterns of behavior is hard, and it can be confusing and challenging to try new things. It’s also easy to give up when something new doesn’t work out and then to come up with plenty of excuses about why it doesn’t work.

I want you to know my support is always available.

If you relate to any of this information and want to learn more about how I can help you, or if you want to schedule a free phone conversation to see if my coaching is right for your family, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Your parenting counts!

Heart of Connecting

My work is dedicated to supporting parents and early childhood educators in understanding and reducing challenging behavior in young children at home and in the preschool classroom.

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