Ask The Experts: Helping Your Toddler Understand and Regulate Their Emotions


Around 18 months of age toddlers start to develop autonomy and independence. Feeling a sense of control and power is an important emotional milestone. However, with the new desire for control, still emerging language skills and underdeveloped impulse control toddlers can get physical. Some degree of hitting is expected but should not be ignored.

Dr. Kim (PsyD, LMFT, RPT, Mom of 2) talks about how to help your toddler understand and regulate their emotions.

Toddlers are notorious for emotional outbursts and trivial breakdowns but they are also developmentally learning what their emotions feel like and what they mean to the people around them and the outside world. Parents can help their toddlers learn to self regulate by giving them a sense of autonomy. Empowering your toddler to take control of their own emotions and validating them will go a long way to effective regulation.

Toddlers need to make sense of their feelings as well as their behaviors and know that they are acceptable to feel in different ways. Invalidating a toddler’s feelings and or shaming them for reacting poorly will only lead to negative outcomes. Embrace your toddler’s reactions with an open mind and a calm heart.  Praise your toddler when they behave positively! Allow them space to cool off in a calm down area designated in your home. Provide them with acceptable and safe ways to release their emotions. Model positive regulation through your own emotions and behaviors. Show them how to experience disappointment, fear, sadness, and anger in safe, acceptable and positive ways.

Dr. Kim (PsyD, LMFT, RPT, Mom of 2)

For more advice from Dr. Kim please check out her wonderful blog at