A Toddler's Actions Ask Questions

A two-year-old is trying for find out how much power they have and who else has power. Their actions are asking questions “I have power, right? Do you have power? Are you like me? What happens when I do things? Can I get everything I want? Who’s in charge? Who’s important?”

In the example above, the toddler is learning the rules of the home and they are: “I can do anything I want. Sometimes Mom and Dad will stop me, but I can keep trying. When I do things they don’t want me to do, Mom and Dad bring me new things. Mom and Dad are not like me. They are here to serve me. When I cry they give me things to cheer me up. They’re always asking me what I want and bringing me things I ask for. I control what happens and I am the most important person in the house.”

Here are rules the toddler is not learning: “Don’t throw olives.” “Don’t play the dog like a drum.” “It is important to listen to Mom and Dad.” “I can’t have everything I want.” “There are things I can do and things I can’t do.” “Like me, Mom and Dad also have power and things they want.” “Everyone in the house is important.” “Mom and Dad are in control of what happens in the house.”

I felt like my clients had been trying to make an environment for their son that was like some big interactive padded room where he could do anything he wanted and remain safe. Any desires or needs the parents had seemed to come a far second to the needs and desires of their son. While this type of environment was certainly stimulating and educational, it was missing the thing most needed, interaction with the clearly expressed will of another. In order for a toddler to develop connection, he must come up against the will and desires of others.  There must be conflict.

"The diamond cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials."—Confucius

            Jacob’s parents were raising him to be a lion (assertive, confident, powerful) but they were parenting like lambs.