Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Toddler Years

How do toddlers discover their will?

Along with a newly developed concept of the self comes a stronger sense of one’s own will. The toddler has discovered that he or she is an individual person with individual goals. In contrast, infants respond to the world with generalized distress or contentment. If bad things happen, they are unhappy. They become content again after the circumstances change. In this regard, their emotional reactions are largely passive. With development, however, children become less passive and more proactive. They learn to pursue what will bring pleasure, and to avoid what will cause displeasure. This desire to impact the environment in line with the child’s emotional responses is the basis of the will. The child learns intentions. Unfortunately, once children discover their own will, they encounter the limits of their control. Willing something to be true does not make it true. Moreover, one’s will is not necessarily aligned with the will of others.


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