When a child all of a sudden grows in their mental skills, at first it is overwhelming and difficult to deal with. They lack the perspective to deal with the new skill. Understanding the development can help us understand why our children are having meltdowns at particular ages, making them much more effective to deal with.
At Toddler Milestone 6, roughly 2 years, 2 months, they realize they can make decisions that affect their life. Before this, they make many choices but now they make a deliberate decision. “Decision” is defined as “a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.”
Think about the very first time a child comes to this perceptual awareness. They realize they can make a decision to make pro-active change, such as changing how they are saying something when they realize they and their mom are miscommunicating. But they also come to the realization that they can make a wrong decision. That’s huge when you are 2 years, 2 months. This is a picture of my daughter at this milestone:
As an example of one way that this might materialize is if they pick a pair of shoes to go out in, and then while out, realize that that was not the pair of shoes they wanted. This happened to us. My daughter deliberately picked out a pair of shoes that she did not normally wear. When we got to where we were going, she had a total meltdown that she didn’t have her usual pair of shoes on. I believe she may have been dealing with the feeling of regret for the very first time in her whole life. Or perhaps she didn’t have the maturity to realize she did make that decision earlier. Either way, when this new skill develops, at first it doesn’t go well. At all. The issue is more than just the shoes. It is the major feelings and perceptual awareness going on in them. If we understand that, we can deal with it better, dealing with those feelings directly.
See more in my book Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to the Toddler Years