It’s hard not to compare your 2 year old to other 2 year olds. Whether your toddler is not talking as clearly as others her age or not yet potty trained, the pressure a parent feels to have a child be like others is immense. A lot of mothers experience some anxiety and shame around their abilities as a parent when their child falls behind other children. The good news is that when it comes to the toddler years the margin for what is typical for development and atypical is pretty large. Even if your child isn’t as advanced as others in her class that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be alarmed.
If you do have some concerns then its best to talk to you pediatrician about these concerns. The pediatrician can do some preliminary screening to rule out medical issues such as vision or hearing difficulties. If medical conditions are ruled out but there is a need for further screening than a referral will be made to another professional who is well versed in early childhood development. There are many screening tools that these professionals will use to that will give you a picture of what to expect from your child at each stage of development. This may ease some of the anxiety you feel about how your child is progressing.
Some of the typical concerns parents have for their 2 year olds are which you should not ignore are:
Socially: There are different types of play a developing child engages in, all based on their developmental (not necessarily their chronological) age (although ideally you want developmental age and chronological to be the same/similar). By 2 years of age your toddler will show interest in playing with peers although solo play is still common. Typically you will see what is called Parallel play. Parallel play is play in which toddlers are playing next to each other and mirroring each other’s play. You may see your toddler sitting next another toddler reading two separate books and at times they speak to each other, but usually they are “reading”. If you look close enough you may even see the side ways glances they make at each other and then they start to shift their own behavior to reflect what the other is doing. This is typical developmental behavior. Concerns arise if you don’t see your 2 year old attempting to engage or engage in play similar to this with their peers. If your 2 year old prefers to play by themselves or even to play only with you (or another adult) then they may have some anxiety around playing with peers. This can be for a variety of reasons, but what’s important is that you use pacing with these children. You can encourage them to play with peers but not force them, which will only compound their anxieties and avoidance. Also try to notice times when your toddler is more apprehensive. Are they tired? Does your child like to sit back and watch for a while before jumping? Do you hover over your child and smoother your child? Some of is this is temperament related, meaning its how your child is wired, so be respective of this when trying to determine the next course of action and whether there is a problem or not.
Aggression: toddlers are impulsive. They are learning and developing so quickly, that at times they can be emotionally overwhelmed. As a result they may lash out at you or their peers. Your 2 year old may have mastered 2 word sentences but that doesn’t mean that they have mastered their emotions. In fact they move quite quickly between emotional states, and I’ve heard adults jokingly refer to specific toddlers as “Bi-polar”. While of course you cannot officially diagnose a 2 year old with bi-polar, the rapid shifts of emotions can be exhausting. Remember that as hard as it is for you the parent or the teacher to deal with these rapid shifts, it is hard for your 2 year old as well. Sometimes pushing their friends away is just more effective than telling them “I need space” especially if their friends have a hard time with giving your 2 year old the space they need. Biting is a common occurrence that usually starts around 16 months as the child begins to play around with their power and control. They are learning. Aggression in your toddler is typical, all toddlers engage on some level with aggression, even the kindest and most relaxed child. Toddler aggression reaches the level of concern when: your 2 year old is constantly taking things away from other children, knocking peers down when they try to defend themselves, constantly hitting, scratching, or biting others. This is a 2 year old who is having great difficulty knowing how to stop (control themselves). You worry that parents will not like your child and your child will a social pariah. This is tough, also, because these behaviors and your ability to see them as a problem is subjective. In a childcare setting if the staff is constantly expressing concern for this type of behavior and you also see this behavior at home, consider consulting with a professional skilled in early childhood development. A therapist will be able to speak with you and the staff to learn about whats precipitating some of these behaviors and give you the tools you’ll need to eliminate these aggressive behaviors. In the meantime you can also pair your aggressive child up with another aggressive child so they can learn from each other how their behaviors impact others. Talking with the other child’s parents and setting up guidelines for intervention will be key with this type of strategy. This may help decrease your 2 year old’s aggressive behavior.
There other areas of concern that I choose not to highlight here so this would not be so long. These include: tantrums, self harming, defiance, and signs of developmental delays.
The key here is early intervention. If you have concerns trust your gut. Don’t wait to see if your child will “grow out of it”. This runs the risk of your child falling further behind. More to the point there is no shame in seeking help for your child, in fact you are showing how much you care about all of their needs, by taking the necessary steps to make this seek help when it’s needed.
These are just a few strategies, tips, and recommendations! I hope you found this post helpful! I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!
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Until we connect again,
As a parent one of your major goals is to be the best parent you can be for your child, and the fears, thoughts, and sadness are overwhelming you right now. So schedule your 50 minute session so we figure out the best way to support you on achieving your goal(s) with your toddler.