The Science of Parenting

Toddler Tendencies | S.7 Ep.3

October 21, 2021 Season 7 Episode 3
The Science of Parenting
Toddler Tendencies | S.7 Ep.3
Show Notes Transcript

Biting, temper tantrums, and overall general mood…all affected by a toddler’s temperament. This week our hosts discuss each trait as they pertain to toddlers and how we can use that understanding to navigate tough behaviors… like those tricky tantrums!

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Mackenzie Johnson:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. We will talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks, and a parenting educator.

Lori Korthals:

And I'm Lori Korthals. And I am a parent of three in two different life stages. They are launched, two of them are, and one is still in high school, and I'm also a parenting educator. And today we're going to continue our season on temperament and child development all smashed together. So this week in particular, we get to talk about toddlers, which is super exciting. I love toddlers. I feel like it's science class 24/7 with toddlers.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And they're just like, Sour Patch Kids. I'm like, what's the word? So sweet, so stormy.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly, exactly. So like we shared the last couple of weeks, what we've done is we've kind of taken two seasons and brought them together. So we're taking our season three on our temperament traits. And we are bringing it alongside our season five, which was all about child development. And we're gonna walk through both of those seasons together and figure out how is it that temperament plays out as our children grow and develop? And like I said, we're going to specifically focus on toddlers this week. Last week, we talked about infants. So if you missed that, just make sure to go back to our blog, go back to our Facebook page and catch up on the infants. It was fun.

Mackenzie Johnson:

The babies. And every episode this season, we're really kind of reminding everybody that parenting is a bi-directional process. So this basically means that our kids influence us, and we influence them. You know, I even think about conversations I have with some of my friends and like, Oh, what is it like? My oldest are like, Oh, my middle, you know, and they think about, like, Why do I feel this way about that? Or why is this hard for me with them, but not the other? And a big part of that is temperament. But we have to remember that not only are we influencing our kids, but who they are, you know, their characteristics, their temperament, their health status, their birth order, their gender identity, all the alls, so they influence us as parents, too. And so the way that we parent them and guide them is influenced by our specific child. So temperament is such, you know, we talked about goodness of fit and creating it. And sometimes their temperaments clash because they're similar, sometimes they clash because they're so different. And we just want to remember that that's all in the mix.

Lori Korthals:

It is which, you know, essentially, it just rides right along with our whole philosophy at The Science of Parenting, which is there is more than one way to raise great kids. And that's because of this bi-directional, right? We just believe that there is more than one right way. So let's go ahead and dive right in. We just want to share with you quickly our definition of temperament that we are using is again from Mary Rothbart and her colleagues and she talks about temperament being defined as that physiological basis for our differences. And so that internal thing, the temperament comes from the genetics of those who birthed us. And so those feelings, those genetics, that internal drive is what happens. And as parents, we can begin to predict how our children might react to their world and to their surroundings. And I love what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka says. She talks about genes being the template, and then our environment and who we interact with kind of allowing us the opportunity to learn and manage and practice our responses. Because the basis of our responses is from our genes, and then we spend the rest of our life kind of working through what we got, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, we navigate with them, we gain skills and all these things. And yeah, so we, of course, we deep dive temperament in season three. So don't forget, you can catch up on that, which was a long season, we had a lot. There's just so much good stuff. But, you know, basically, in short, you know, Lori summed it up nicely with those little tidbits. But my takeaway from Season Three was really that temperament helps us understand who our kids are, how they interact with the world, the patterns of behavior they're gonna have, and our role is to help guide them through the world. Help them build the skills that they need and to figure out how to work with it. And like, okay, yes, we have something to do now that we know temperament, but then yes, also great news. It's like cleaning up that little window to understand our kids better. And we can help predict and anticipate their behavior, which is like, oh, anything to help you there.

Lori Korthals:

I love that word picture. We cleaned off the window. We were wiping the window with the dirt off the window, as we're learning about temperament. Absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I stole that from you. So okay, you offered and then I just explained a little. I remember I've talked to people, I'm like, Oh, you know, expand like the window, you're cleaning it off, you get to understand a little bit. And then you do like a temperament profile, and it gets a little bit more, and then you get the squeegee out. And you can see better and better.

Lori Korthals:

That's awesome. Well, as we look at toddlers this week, we're really going to look at the ages about between one and three. And just like we did in season three, we're going to use the CDC milestone tracker. So you can find that at the CDC website. It's a really cool milestone tracker. But as we think about toddlers, and we think about the things that they are naturally doing as they grow, they're really starting to move much more independently, right? They might be hopping, and they might be starting to hop, they're definitely climbing up things, right? Their emotions are super strong, just because of their age. So because of their age, and these developmental milestones, these things that happen as they grow, we as parents are going to experience some of these things alongside with them just like every other child. Now we know that the rate that children grow, so the rate that their milestones happen, is going to be different. But milestones are typically things that happen in every child. Additionally, there are children with diverse and special needs and they might not have all the milestones. But again, they might be reaching those milestones at a later time. Even though they reach these milestones at different times, there's still this interaction with temperament in them. And that's what we're going to explore.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah. When I think about the difference, you know, like what my first 18 month old, could say, do, interact, emotionally regulate, versus what my other child at 18 months, you know, could do, say, emotionally regulate? Right? And so we know that it's going to be different rates for different kids and temperament's a big part of that. But yeah, we do know for most toddlers, right? In the the toddler years, they're moving around a lot, right? They've really gotten much more control of their body. They're walking, they are running, hopping, like Lori said, but also their desire to interact with and explore their surroundings really increases, right? As a baby they're a lot more limited, right? They weren't mobile for a while, like they weren't crawling or anything. So it was really limited to what was directly around them. And then it was like, well, now I can crawl or maybe I could walk a little but it was like in a really limited thing. Well, as toddlers, they're exploring more and more. They're gonna show greater independence. Sometimes even that independence comes with some defiant behavior. I was telling Lori earlier, my toddler's current I don't like what you said is like to do like a big dramatic crossing of his arms and like a big exhale. Mom, you are bothering me, mom? Yes, showing some defiance there. And it's also fun, they start to recognize themselves more in pictures, in the mirror. They will imitate behavior, right? So I see my toddler following his sister around seeing what she's up to, but they do, they imitate a lot of behavior of adults and older kids. And then yeah, some of the things that they're likely able to do include recognizing the names like they can label stuff, right? This is a dog. This is a bear. This is a house. They can label those objects and familiar people. They can put together some simple sentences and phrases and kind of start to follow some of those simpler directions, right? Like grab your shoes. Exactly. They're getting way better at their receptive language, which they're continuing to understand more and more of what you say, even when you have a young toddler who maybe couldn't say that back to you.

Lori Korthals:

There are a lot more words in their head than in their mouth, right? Yes, yes. Yes. So one of the theories that we talk about when we talk about development is Erik Erikson. And another resource that we use is Dr. Diana Lange's book. And in her book, she references Erik Erikson and his stages of child development. And I love how he puts that this stage is really about that independence. And what that independence is doing is setting them up for success as they grow, especially in those areas of self esteem, self initiative, and just that overall confidence. So as toddlers express that independence that sometimes challenges us as parents, it's helpful for us to just maybe take a step back and think, oh, good. He's getting more confident. Oh, good. This is helping herself esteem. You know, oh, good. This initiative at two, while it was challenging right now, is really setting them up for success.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, I even think about my son is currently in the stage of like, he wants to get himself into his car seat. Hmm. But it's a very long process. And I'm like, I do eventually want you to be able to get yourself to climb up there yourself. Yeah, that will be a good thing. I'll just wait the four minutes right now. Yeah. And I don't always give four minutes. Spoiler alert. That is, it's a part of that independence. And yeah, reframing it of like, you're building your skills. You're building your competence, your initiative, and those things. But one thing that is hard about this independence is like, as parents, right, this bi-directional thing, like, how do I feel? And not just like, oh, you're growing up? Not that as much as like, do I feel safe to let you climb on those rocks? How does my temperament interact like my reaction when you fall down? Right, like, and so yeah, actually, this is kind of a question that I ask myself as a parent, am I uncomfortable or are they unsafe? Hmm. And so I ask myself with my toddler, am I uncomfortable with this? I'm just not. I don't know, if you're ready, what will happen? And giving myself the pause to say, am I just uncomfortable because this is new or hard while they still seem so little? Or are they unsafe? And so if they're unsafe, how can I help them explore while being safe, right? So sometimes it's okay, I will hold your hand or I will stand next to you while you try this, right. And sometimes it's setting a clear boundary of like, no, that behavior is unsafe, instead, we can, right. And so boundary setting is a huge part of toddlerhood. They're figuring out, okay, now that I can explore the world, how am I going to be safe, right? And that's what we're doing as parents, set the boundaries to keep them safe, while allowing them to be independent and explore.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely and it's such a balance, right? It's such a balance. Oh, you're doing you're doing a big boy thing, and I'm not comfortable with that because you're still my baby. Balancing that with oh, look at that initiative and independence you're showing and okay, I can handle this maybe for 30 seconds. Okay, now, be my baby again.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I do. I think, you know, the physical stuff is what comes to mind for me. I'm like, yes, you're gonna climb that and you want to do this and you want to explore that. But there is a lot of other kinds of exploration like the way they interact with toys. Now I'm going to put this on my head. And so there is some creativity and things to that. It's like, this is fun exploration. They're gonna do new things.

Lori Korthals:

Like I said science class. 24/7. Always, always science. Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So let's see how temperament rolls into this. Right? Like, how does that play out with toddlerhood? Absolutely.

Lori Korthals:

So we're going to use the nine traits from Thomas and Chess. We talked about them in season three. We talked about them the last couple weeks. And what we're going to do is we're going to walk through those nine traits. And remember that we get all nine traits. Okay, we got them when we were little. Now we're an adult, we still have them. So our children have all nine traits. It's just this continuum of how much did we give them of each trait? Did we give them a little or a lot? And then the idea of okay, as toddlers, there's this normal development, let's pile temperament on top of that and say, Okay, these challenging behaviors that toddlers are giving us are actually a mix of both and how can we, you know, gain some tips, tricks, tools and techniques and put them in our parenting toolbox and grab them when we need them. Right? Yes. All right, you start us off.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, so I'm going to start with activity levels. So we're going to talk about kind of examples of how you might see this temperament trait play out with toddlers. And so for activity level, I initially was like, oh, Lori, you do it. I feel like I don't have a good grasp of this. Toddlers are so active. So it's hard for me to tell. And then as we talk through, it was like, Oh, no, no, I've got some examples. Exactly. So I have a friend with a child around the same age. And I see activity level when we go somewhere together in the stroller. I had a very active toddler, that we literally could go on a mile walk without a stroller, because she wanted to walk. And then I have a friend who has a kiddo who like, it's good. We've got to bring the stroller because they're gonna get tired, and they're going to get exhausted. And so that activity level of yes, toddlers are active. But is that instinct a little more rest? Or a little more go, go go? And then you also gave an example as we're chatting through it, like, do you have a kid that once they get their legs under them, it's a sprint? Or is it like kind of a waddle of like, Oh, yeah, over here. Okay, back to mom and dad. Okay. Sit down and snuggle. So that activity level, we see that in I have to have a stroller. Or a very active kid. My daughter, we didn't even bring it with us after 18 months, unless we're going to somewhere we're walking miles and miles and miles, it probably wasn't coming with us. And that was unusual. Other people thought we were a little crazy for that.

Lori Korthals:

Right? Yes. Here comes that parental judgment. You put that on your baby gift registry, and now you're not using it?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, we did use it, she developed earlier than some other kids.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, yeah. Okay, so then I'm gonna kind of do these next two, a little bit together. But initially, they are approach/withdrawl and adaptability. So thinking about approaching or withdrawing as, how do they respond in new situations? And then adaptability is their response to transitions. Now remember, temperament becomes predictable. So can we predict whether they're going to approach new things or if they're going to withdraw and hide? So that's the continuum, right, a little or a lot approaching, withdrawing. And so as we think about the toddler, the toddler who is approaching in new situations, you know, they might peek in the door and be like, oh, I think this looks fun. I'm on my way, where the withdrawing toddler, they might be clinging to you. They're up in your arms, crawling up your neck, they are getting as far away from that new situation as possible. Same thing with new toys, new clothes, right? The toddler who's approaching, they're interested in that newness, while the withdrawing child is like, oh, well, that's nice. Can I have my old blanket back? And then adaptability then becomes that response or that ability to predict how they're going to react in transitions. Okay, now, I'm just a point like, everything in a toddler's life is basically a transition. We move them from, you know, car seats to the ground. We move them from the table to the couch. They move from the living room into the bathroom. So everything is a transition. So adaptability really becomes that huge key of, are they a natural planner? Being that they're less adaptable? Even at one or two, right. They have their thoughts on how quickly we're going to adjust to moving into this car seat.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I had planned on a blue cup.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, I planned on a blue cup. Wait, what are you doing? You mean? Yeah, exactly.

Mackenzie Johnson:

This is not blue.

Lori Korthals:

This is not blue. Versus a more adaptable child who, you know what? They were totally okay with the red cup. And if it wasn't even a cup, it was a bowl that they had to drink out of, super fun. Right? And so based on just the temperament alone, think about how do they respond in new situations? And then in those transitions, everyday transitions?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Those are big ones. Like what's new and what's unexpected? Well, and a part of how strongly those feelings are expressed, is one of my favorite toddler temperament traits. At every age, it's one of my favorites, intensity. So this is the emotional reaction and how strong it is. And so when it comes toddlers, I tend to think of, you know, we talk a little bit about toddlers and tantrums, right? But so, yeah, we'll get to those. But thinking of intensity of your child, are they more what some might call dramatic or relaxed? Like, oh, you know, nothing is too upsetting, or what do you think about your child when upset? Do you picture screaming, crying falling apart or mild disappointment? Because it's not that they don't experience strong feeling but their expression, right? It's just different than how they experienced them. And then the one that I think about that this is the one that tells you, to me it's excitement. Yeah, like, I think of the difference between me and my husband. I am very intense. And I'm excited. I'm like kick my legs, hands in the air kind of excitement. And his excited is like a smirk. Well, yes, there's a little way that he looks when he's excited about something. And so yeah, when you think about your kids being excited about something, is it a loud excitable? You know, like, Whoa, yeah. Or is it more of a more mild like, Ah, thank you. And I even think of how that plays into opening presents. Yeah. Right. Like, yeah, like the novelty of approach, but the intensity of like, I'm really excited about this. Thank you. Some kids are just that like, Oh, these Legos, yay. So intensity definitely has a role there. But then also, sensitivity is another trait. And so I think of this as like, how much your kids are in tune or notice the sensory experiences of sound, sight taste, right? And so this can relate to picky eating a little bit. Do they notice the texture of this or the taste of that?

Lori Korthals:

Too hot. When Millie poured the milk in her corn because it was too hot?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Back in season one. I still think about that one. I can picture that in my head. And so you know, how much are they noticing? When my niece was like, in this toddler age, she was always like, lights, lights, lights, everywhere we went, she's like, oh, there's the light. And it was just like, what a weird little obsession to have. She was noticing, right? The lights were bright, the light wasn't on, she wanted it on. Right. She was noticing those kinds of sensory things around her. And then another one that I like to use as a gauge is, how does a child feel about being barefoot outside? Our backyard has some rocks, some grass, some not very nice places to step. Some dog poop. And you know, some kids are like, I need my shoes. Right? It really hurts me to be barefoot, or I don't like how the grass feels and some kids are like, there's no thought to it. And so that's another one related to sensitivity.

Lori Korthals:

Oh gosh, the number of battles I've seen on playgrounds with parents and shoes and children. All right, so distractibility and persistence are the next two. When you think about distractibility, this is really important because a distractible, more distractible child, they might get overstimulated because they're catching everything that's going on. They're noticing this toy then that toy then this person then that person, this truck that just rode by on the street and they're noticing and they could get easily overstimulated as a toddler. You know, in general, all of that information coming in. We think about as adults the times that we get overstimulated, but just in general toddlerhood being 24/7 that distractibility of noticing everything can create some overstimulated moments and maybe cause a tantrum or two.write for sure. And then persistence or then so let's go with the the less distractible child, we might think about. Yeah, don't skip them. Definitely not because they might get locked in. Like, no, I want to go see this puppy over here that's a stranger's puppy, or no, I want to play up here on top of the slide.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You can't pull me away with something

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, I know that trick. I know that redirection else. trick that you parents using guidance and discipline are trying but I don't want to be redirected, right. So they are not distracted. They get locked in. Did we did we give them with their genes a little or a lot of distractibility. And then persistence, another trait, is kind of similar. And we think about that idea of a persistent child, a persistent toddler is that toddler that is going to try over and over and over and over. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again and again, again and again and again, right? Again, they're persistent, they're going to try it. They want to keep trying, versus the toddler who is not persistent and maybe will do everything to avoid frustration at all costs. I don't want to climb in the car to get in my car seat. You put me in, you put my coat on, you do it. You put my shoe on. It's too hard and frustrating for me. I am not comfortable with these things that you're wanting me to do. I don't want to be independent. Thank you very much.

Mackenzie Johnson:

This toy is not stacking the way I want. I'm going to go on to something else.

Lori Korthals:

All done. Yeah. And if you think about that, even with new toys. If they are hard or difficult, because we as parents are thinking, okay, now they need the next step. They need the next level. I want them to grow and learn and they're like, okay, that's too hard. And my persistence level is not that persistent. I don't want to keep doing that versus the child, yeah, yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I like my peg puzzles. I don't want other puzzles. Give me something I'm good at.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. You know, and that can be frustrating as parents on both spectrums, right. And with temperament, remember the things that we talked about last week, some of these traits were not frustrating as an infant at that age, but they're suddenly frustrating at the toddler age. So that's a really important thing to remember about temperament as well.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, for sure. Okay and then two more traits, regularity, which still really a factor here because parents are still very much in charge, right? We are still changing the diapers and we're still preparing the plates, and all of those things. And so regularity is very much about like that eat, sleep, poop. And I tend to think if you have a toddler that has high regularity, we're still kind of on that clock. They might fit naturally into the toddler schedule of yep, we get up, we eat breakfast. We do this. Around this time, I know you're going to be tired Around this time, I can anticipate you're going to poop. And actually, my childcare provider and I, it's like because I have such a regular child, if my child does not like, oh, there was no poop today. Okay, okay. I am going to keep an eye on that. That's good to know. Whether it was like, well, whenever it happened, yes. So is it easy to anticipate or is it like, well, some days. Some days they eat a ton at breakfast and no snacks. And some days they eat snacks all day. So that irregularity. Like it's just like, well, some days, I don't know.

Lori Korthals:

And tied into that independence because they're toddlers.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Oh, yeah.

Lori Korthals:

No, I'm independent. I am done. I had three grapes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Good enough. That was plenty.

Lori Korthals:

That was plenty. Yes, yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Finally, mood, which I feel like this one is a little more straightforward. Do you have a child that tends to be a little more sunny and chipper or a little more somber and serious. So that can affect your ability to soothe, right? They can be a little easier to soothe when they're sunny, or a little bit more difficult and need a little more help with those emotions when they're on the lower end of mood.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. And, you know, like I mentioned before, these traits can be both positive and difficult, at the same time, and things that we valued as they were an infant. That ability to not be distracted, because they were they were sleeping better. And now as a toddler, we are like, well, can I just distract you because what you're doing is not safe. So same kid, same level of distractibility, different age.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Mm hmm. Absolutely. And I think of that too, with intensity. That's always the trait I go to, I just like that one. As an infant, I knew what you needed, right? Like, Oh, you are crying. You are hungry, right? Or you are whatever that might be. And then yeah, as a toddler, it's like, why are your tantrums like whoa, and then my friend whose child is like the exact same age is not doing the tantrum thing. What is this? Yeah.

Lori Korthals:

And that leads us right into our reality section. Right. So yeah, we've talked about child development and we've talked about the traits and one thing that we really wanted to do this season, and Mackenzie's kind of alluded to that as well, is we want to pull in some research in specific areas that might be challenging. So, okay, what is it that toddler parents might go surfing the net for at 2am - tantrums, right? This is kind of clear to us that, you know, helping toddlers manage those big feelings at this age, because that's what the age is about, and then adding on temperament. We thought, okay, let's see if we can find some research on temper tantrums and toddlers. And so one of our favorite temperament writers, Helen F. Nevel. She worked with Jim Cameron and his colleagues at Kaiser Permanente. They wrote a book called Temperament Tools. Helen F. Neville and her friends, Diane Clark Johnson did. And so they wrote this book called Temperament Tools. And I love the way they break the the information about temperament down into certain ages, as well as they use animals to talk about the different types of temperament clusters and traits that all go together. But what we also want you to know is that you can go to the site that Mackenzie talked about last week, preventiveoz.org or temperament.com, either of those two sites, and fill out a temperament profile, temperament survey, that kind of tells you, where does my child fall on this continuum that Lori and Mackenzie keep talking about? And we'll make sure that we put access to those resources on our blog.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, for sure. Yes. And so we do, we get to dive in a little bit. And I just gotta give the disclaimer that tantrums are a normal part of toddler development. They are. Talking about toddlers, I like to talk about it as a perfect storm for hard behavior, right? Like, they are starting to learn. I can express myself and people can understand me. Yeah, so they're starting to learn that. Their brain also has all this stuff in their head that they can't tell you yet. They don't have the words like Lori said, in their head and on their mouth, so it just creates this kind of perfect storm. And they also don't have a lot of coping skills yet. Right. As an infant, it was cry. Parents fix it. Cry. Parents fix it. And yes, learning to express those emotions and still crying, right? Toddlers still cry, but they're also learning new ways to express and, I mean, it's a challenge. It's normal. It's okay if it's hard. But you're not like, oh, my child's naughty. No, your child's a toddler. They're having a hard time. And so it's alright to be like, yes, being a toddler is hard. And our role as parents is to say this is hard for you. I want to help you learn some skills, right? How to cope with this, what we can do when we're mad, help you understand? What is that big rush that's inside? Yes, you're mad, you're mad, you're frustrated? But we get to help them figure out more appropriate behavior, right, more appropriate ways of doing things.

Lori Korthals:

We do. So we're going to kind of walk through about six steps or just six opportunities to think about and consider, right? So the first one that Helen talks about is really focusing on that when and why and that when and why is a little bit different here because that when is exactly what Mackenzie was talking about. When is the time of the age, like they are toddlers. That's when temper tantrums happen. And so, you know, rest assured they're very normal because of the when. Right now, in toddlerhood. And then we look at the why and I love how she talks about the why and now I never considered that there were two types of temper tantrums until reading Helen's book Temperament Tools. And so she talks about there's two types of temper tantrums. And if you really think about it, I think of myself as an adult and I can see myself in these two definitions, right? So there might be one kind of temper tantrum that's about controlling, manipulation. I want to control the situation and as a toddler, I'm gaining more independence because of my child development and I need to let you know that I'm in charge of this situation. As a toddler, I want to control it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So I want you to give in or let me or give it back.

Lori Korthals:

And I have a wish. I have a need. I have a want, right? I have this want, and I want you to, and I'm going to control the situation. So she talks about that as manipulative tantrums versus temper tantrums that are from an emotional level. Like I need to release this emotional tension because I'm anxious. It's a new situation. I have run out of adaptability, because I'm not adaptable in my temperament trait. I have too much energy because I'm very active. And now all of these distractions have overloaded me. And that is a temper tantrum that is emotional release. Now, I don't know about you, but I can think of myself as an adult. That in me my look like a big round of tears. I have had emotional releases, right? Or I need to just walk out the door and yell at the top of my lungs. Okay, so like, sometimes I need to slam the door. Yes. No, right. Yes, uh, we, as adults have temper tantrums.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And we learned appropriate ways.

Lori Korthals:

We have learned appropriate ways, and we've given ourselves permission for those tantrums. So can't we also give that to our toddlers? Like, yes, you know what, you can have an emotional release. Now, let me help you figure out how to do that in an appropriate way. Yes, I love those two things. What kind of tantrum is it? What is triggering it?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Is my child wanting a specific thing, right? Or, and I can even think of situations where my child is melting down about this thing that they don't normally care about. And I'm like, well, this is really emotional overwhelm, right? But yeah, but understanding that it's not always about getting their way. Sometimes it's just about, these feelings are big for me.

Lori Korthals:

These are huge feelings.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Another one that Helen talks about is tracking the tantrums. So when are they happening? Right? Is it like a certain time of day that it's happening, right before something, right after something, during a transition? How often are they happening? I think this is also helpful as we think about kids with special needs. This opportunity to track what you feel like is a challenging behavior, or a red flag potential behavior, that you're tracking it like, okay, how long is this happening? How long do they last? Right? If you think about a tantrum, is it typical for a tantrum to last an hour? Is it typical for this to happen seven times a day? Is it typical for this to happen once a day? And then also the intensity level of it, right? Do I have a child that is, and sometimes just an intense kid not related to a diagnosis or special needs or anything? Intense kids can bang their head on the floor. Right? That is huge, overwhelming, right? But it's worth thinking about those things for typically developing kids, like whether or not you're concerned about, you know, delays and things like that. But being able to track it gives you a sense of the bigger picture of this feels like it's constant. Really, it's once a day, or really, it's right before lunch, or really, it's... It can help you figure out those triggers for these tantrums that we were talking about earlier.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely. And with regular toddlers, more regular toddlers, that tracking, you probably don't even need to watch because you can think of it right off the top of your head. It's with those irregular toddlers that you might really have to watch and go, oh, my goodness, this happens every time they get hungry, and they don't get hungry the same time every day. Right? And so if you have an irregular toddler, your tracking is really going to be important. When does this happen? What happened before it because that irregularity is going to make a huge, huge difference in when those happen? Yes. Okay. And you also brought up one more and this ties right into I think item number 4 is that safety. So as they're having tantrums because they're normal and they're toddlers, as they're having tantrums, are they safe? Are they an intense toddler who bangs their head on the floor. If they are, you just might need to sit down on the floor and slide your leg under their head. I mean, I have a cushy leg, they can slam their head on my cushy leg and I will help you be safe. I will help you be safe. I will help you be safe and then we need to teach them, show them, what is a more appropriate way that's safer for them to get that emotional release. Do they need to stomp their feet on the ground and growl, right? And sometimes we have to practice these things when they're not in the middle of a tantrum. Because remember, in the middle of the tantrum, they're in their downstairs brain. And their downstairs brain is not thinking. There is only growling. Toddlers' downstairs brains are bigger than their upstairs brains. So there's that. But we need to make sure that they're safe. And that we can create some positive appropriate behaviors that they can see and practice ahead of time.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And then the final tip she talks about is thinking about how we can help our kids regain control. Right? Yeah, especially in that emotional overwhelm, or even if it is a kind of manipulative tantrum, how they can handle that disappointment. Like, I know you really want this and I'm saying no. How can they help regain control? And so a question that I actually asked my kids as toddlers and still use is do you want help or do you want space? I love that, you know, and so sometimes it's like, do you want a hug? Do you want me to let you be? And so giving my child the chance to say that and it also encourages my kids to say when they need space with a toy so we're trying to give some language but you know, other things to think about like, what would help your child regain control? Would connection, like physical touch? Would that help your child? Would humor? Right? Would that help them deal with the disappointment or the redirection? What movement? Right? You know, they talk about punching a pillow, or I've literally in terms of letting out a big feeling of release. I have invited my child to like, do you just need to yell? Let's go on the front step. Let's use that outside voice. We can go yell. You're mad, right? Or you're just have a lot of energy. So thinking about what is it with your specific child that can help them get back to a place where they're a little more regulated? Whether connection, space, humor, there's lots of different things we can use. But what will help your specific child?

Lori Korthals:

And as toddlers, our takeaway with all this is that they're toddlers. Toddlers, by definition, have big feelings. And their big feelings are frightening to them. They need our help. And I love there's one little section in Helen's book where she said something like her husband, or maybe we need to carry around a little card on a little sign that says, temper tantrum in progress, no worries. Just to let people know that yes, we are reading our child's cues. And they're toddlers. And here's here's how we're helping them through that temper tantrum.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. So that is what we have for our research

Mackenzie DeJong:

I just realized I've been typing away and reality content. So now we're going to go ahead and bring in our producer, Mackenzie DeJong, for what we call our Stop, Breathe, Talk moment. That s our flagship parenting strateg . And so she comes in and ask us a question off the cuff. And reminds us to stop, take a reath, and think intention so I didn't have my mic in front of me. I'm sorry about that. I lly about the topic at hand. And we'll see what you got for us to ay, Kenz, huh? was gonna talk you were going to be able to not hear me and everyone would have been okay with it.

Lori Korthals:

No.

Mackenzie DeJong:

My question today is around this idea that toddlers, well, toddlers are a lot, right. And we know that toddlers are a lot no matter which end of the scale they're on for activity level, for mood, for any of these traits. So I guess my question is, as we navigate temperament and our toddlers, what do you think are the most difficult traits to navigate with toddlers as a parent as a caregiver?

Lori Korthals:

You have to go first because I can't remember what I said when we talked earlier because now they're all coming up in my brain. All of them.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, the first thing I want to say is, it depends on you as a parent, what traits you find hardest. So as an intense parent myself, do I find my children's intensity, like oh, yeah, I get it? Or is it overwhelming because we're both so hot. So it really does depend on you as a parent, but I do think that the trait of intensity, one of my faves, and in tantrums and things like biting and hitting. Because toddlers, like I said, perfect storm of I can't tell you yet. I don't have ways to communicate this to you in appropriate ways in my words, so I'm going to hit you because you made me really mad, or I'm going to shove you because I want you to get away from my stuff. I'm gonna throw this very loud tantrum because I'm disappointed and overwhelmed. And so I think intensity is one when you have a highly intense toddler that you see a lot. But another one that I think is hard for toddlers is adaptability. When you have a toddler that has lower adaptability, and it's hard for them to express that to you, right, like blue, like blue cup. I think of all the times right now that I'm trying to decode what my toddler is saying to me. And it's like, I don't know what you're talking about. No, and, and he's at the point, mine now will repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. And I'm like, I'm so sorry. It only sounds like monkeys. And that's hard for our toddlers, hard for us to understand them. Show me.. Show me Yes. Right. And so with that low adaptability, the disappointment of the unexpected for them can be hard.

Mackenzie DeJong:

And I think Lori, I can't remember if Lori said this before we recorded or during the recording, but everything is new to a toddler. Right? Yeah. Everything is new to a toddler. We haven't lived enough for it to be not new. Hmm.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah. So I know that. So I'm obviously going to say regularity, because they're growing, they want to be independent yet we as adults want to control that eat, sleep, and poop. Right? So enough about that. But I also think about the parental wish of, oh, when it comes to approaching, withdrawing, I really want my child to be approaching so that everyone thinks my child is sweet. And when they come and they go, oh, hi, sweetheart, give me a hug. Or oh, isn't he so awesome. Give me a high five. But when your child is not approaching, they're withdrawing. And they suddenly run back to you and they nuzzle back into you, and they don't want to engage with that person. I mean, the there's just that level of whether it's shame, guilt, judgment. Like as a parent, we put a, I don't know if it's a price tag, or we put a lot of weight on our child engaging with other people socially, right. And so I think that that can be hard in toddlers, because if you have a withdrawing toddler, you know, there is that level of okay, do they think that my child is not sociable. They actually are sociable, just not now in five seconds flat. And so I think that is a hard thing with toddlers because they're gaining that independence. And they do know what they want. Right? Yes. So that's mine.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. And I don't think all the traits are not bad traits. Right. There's also this beauty in my toddler that's slow approaching that, you know, Lori, you've used the term risk taker. My low approach toddler is probably not the kid that's jumping off of this thing and terrifying me. That's not your low approach toddler probably. And so yeah, but there are some parts of it that can be harder for parents.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Yeah. So I am going to say you skipped over regularity. But I realized that what are toddlers doing? Potty training, right? Yes. And that can have a big role in the regularity can probably have a big role in how that potty training goes. We all have ideals on what they should be

Lori Korthals:

100% doing in their potty training and what it should look like and holy smokes. I didn't even think about that until you said that. So that would also be something that probably is pretty tough. A regular toddler is fairly easy to potty train. The irregular toddler who is not persistent. A. I don't know when I gotta go, and B. This is hard.

Mackenzie Johnson:

If they're less sensitive, like I didn't notice I needed to go. Sorry about that. I am that way. My husband knows to ask me like, do we need to go? And I'm like, no. Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah.

Lori Korthals:

Well, thank you, Kenz.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Thank you.

Mackenzie Johnson:

All that good stuff with toddlers. You know, there's so much there. independence is a huge part of it. Exploring, daily on the go science experiments. It's a very active time, but that temperament is flowing through everything they're doing.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. So okay, next week, we're going to talk about preschoolers. Same format. We're gonna mash temperament and child development together. We're going to pull out what we think is, you know, a challenging thing with preschoolers and that's going to dive back into emotions and social development and thinking about how temperament impacts those. So come back with us next week. But in the meantime, thank you for joining us on The Science of Parenting podcast. We know that many of you are listening on your favorite podcast app, and we would love it if you might take the opportunity to quick give us a rating on that podcast app. It just helps bring that app or our podcast up forward in the list a little bit higher.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, if you've got a second and you've been enjoying it, that would be a huge thing to us. If you take a second to give us that five star rating or write a review, that'd be awesome. Yes. Please do come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Lori Korthals and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext