YO U R T O D D L E R ’ S D E V E L O P M E N T
2 3 5
Months 36–48 may be more peaceful than the previous year,
as your child gradually leaves toddlerhood behind. During
the months ahead, she will start to want to please you more,
rather than just wanting to meet her own needs, but the
year will present its own distinct challenges.
Your toddler’s development
Your relationship with your toddler will change significantly during the
year ahead, in ways that are both lovely and fascinating. Her imagination
is developing rapidly now. She will be able to disappear into a world of
fantasy that will help her to explore different roles and behavior. This is
also the time when fears (see page 260) begin to develop and nightmares
(see page 264) may make an appearance.
With her new reasoning power comes the realization that she is separate
from and different than you; she will start to understand that her actions
have consequences which means she will also begin to understand the
difference between “right” and “wrong.” She will have an ever-increasing
number of questions as she tries to make sense of the world.
Your toddler will now have a far better understanding of the guidelines
that you give her and will be able to remember them more easily. She will
still need you to remind her of what is needed, though, since she can’t
hold too much information in mind at any one time. She is not only aware
of you as being separate from her; she is also much more in tune with your
emotions and needs. Toddlers from age three and onward are much more
motivated to please their parents because they want to make them happy.
“There is nothing like having a three-year-old
for improving your own manners, behavior, and
attitudes. Every time I hear my daughter announce,
‘My daddy says…’ my nerves jangle!” Brian, age 38
2 3 6
3 – 4 Y E A R S
It is at this age that your toddler will start to look up to you as a role
model and will start to insist that "Mommy says" or "Daddy says."
You will notice that your toddler will now look to you far more
frequently for guidance on how she should act and behave and she will
echo your words and phrases more than ever. These early years play an
important part in developing your child’s attitudes and beliefs about
how the world, the self, and other people act. For that reason, it is
important to try to hold a balanced view of the world and to hold
back on unfair criticism of others on the basis of looks, creed, race, or
gender. Each time you set an example that your child follows, you are
giving her a message for life.
The months ahead will also see a change in your child’s self-regard.
She will start to respond more and seek out your praise and appreciation,
and will also begin to praise herself. This is the ideal age to begin to
encourage her to help to make simple choices for herself: encourage her
to make decisions by giving her two equally feasible choices. Her budding
sense of achievement is crucially important for the development of her
self-esteem (see page 259) and confidence.
This growing self-awareness is partnered with the beginnings of an
understanding of both the consequences of her behavior and reasons why
certain behavior might not be acceptable. She still won’t be able to manage
if you give her lengthy reasons for why she shouldn’t do something, but
short explanations will be okay. This increase in understanding and
reasoning really kick-starts the development of her moral ideas and beliefs.
Our moral awareness develops as we begin to reflect on what we hear
and learn, observe the behavior of others, and weigh the “rights and
wrongs” of a situation as we perceive it. Until now, your toddler has
had very little understanding of right and wrong. Behavior-shaping has
been less about explanation and more about diversion and distraction.
From about 36–42 months onward, however, you will begin to notice
a subtle change in her abilities.
As your child’s reasoning skills improve, not only does she begin to
understand that her behavior has an effect, she also learns about the
consequences of that effect on others, and develops empathy. This ability