The Ups and Downs of Toddler Development

If you think that life with your toddler seems to be full of ups and downs, you are right. Children actually pass through cycles of equilibrium and disequilibrium, changing from one to the other about every six months. I wish that I had learned about this a lot sooner, because understanding the cycle of equilibrium and disequilibrium has given me a new perspective on toddler behavior that just might help me to have a little more patience with my boys.

When a child is in disequilibrium, he is actively growing, changing, and learning new skills. Intense behavioral changes are also a major part of disequilibrium. Since a typical period of disequilibrium lasts about six months, the intense behavior that is part of it can be really difficult for parents to manage. Knowing that intense behavioral changes are a part of a normal toddler’s development can be very helpful when you are at your wit’s end wondering why every strategy that you try to use to help your toddler with his behavior seems to be of no use.

During a phase of equilibrium, a child practices the skills that he has recently acquired. Also, his behavior is calm, in sharp contrast to the intensity of the disequilibrium phase. Some of the descriptions of the differences between equilibrium and disequilibrium mention that when a child moves from one phase to another, the change can be so dramatic that it is as if someone flipped a switch or something.

I am not sure if this is what is going on with Dylan right now. For what seems like months, his behavior has been very challenging and difficult to understand. Yesterday felt very different, as did today. I can not point to anything that might have caused the change, either. We are eating the same foods and doing the same things as we have been doing all along. However, for the past two days I have had to put far less effort into parenting than I have been for months. I have been able to just relax and enjoy my time with the boys, which is just wonderful.