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I'm not Selfish, I'm Learning!

We are all familiar with the term, terrible twos, correct? That wonderful age when a toddler believes that everything revolves around them and that everyone is just a supporting actor for his or her leading role. For as long as I can remember, I've always heard my friends, family, and colleagues claim that their toddler is aware of their selfishness, and is behaving in such a way because they are "too grown" and "mean". However, after studying child development, I see now that this is pretty common behavior that is displayed in all stages of life.

Let's go back in time for a brief moment. I want you to go back to the first time you purchased a smartphone. Think back to how excited you were to try out all of its features and see how it worked. Now tell me this: In the moment you were learning about your new phone, were you thinking about your mother? In that moment of excitement, were you considering what you need to do for your significant other? In most cases, when we are busy learning how things in our surroundings work, we are selfish. We don't take time to consider how others feel, how others are thinking, and what everyone else in our immediate circle is concerned with. This selfishness is in our nature when we are learning, and it is only when we are unable to understand a concept that we reach out to people.

Toddlers are egocentric by nature because they are constantly learning! Toddlers have only been exposed to our world for a brief period of time, and during this time their brains are developing at a rapid rate. By two or three years old, a child's brain has twice as many synapses as a fully developed adult brain, meaning they are capable of adapting and learning about their environment at faster speeds than their adult counterpart.

While children are born with the capacity to learn at accelerated rates, one must consider all of the information children must learn within a short span of time. If we look at the learning cycle of a child, they are only given roughly five years before they are integrated into society with the expectation of understanding certain societal norms. Meaning in this time, they must gain the functionality of their body, learn how to communicate with others, understand the desires and emotions of others, all while understanding their own cognitive, physical, and emotional development. If we take a moment to objectively see what toddlers are tasked with, it is easy to understand how they can have brief selfish moments.

Please understand, this article is not advocating selfish behavior in small children. This is also not an excuse to let your child dominate whatever environment they are currently in. This article is merely a reminder to be mindful of your child's learning habits and tendencies. It is very easy to take offense to a "combative" child when you are simply trying to help them grow. But instead of reacting to their independence and self-centered behavior, take a moment to remember they are still learning. Although a child's mind is equipped to grow at accelerated rates during this time of their lives, their behavior is not as complex as we build them up to be.

References: “Baby's Brain Begins Now: Conception to Age 3.” Urban Child Institute, Urban Child Institute,

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