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Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5 Years - Common Concerns


Children ages 2 to 5 have many intense emotions that they do not fully understand. As a result, expect your young child to not always listen to you. Be patient, and do your best to be consistent about setting limits to avoid some common issues. These may include:

  • Temper tantrums. These emotional outbursts are perhaps the biggest behavior challenge for this age group. Many 1- to 4-year-olds have temper tantrums at least once a week. For more information, including help on how to respond to tantrums, see the topic Temper Tantrums.
  • Thumb-sucking. Thumb-sucking in children younger than 4 years of age is not usually a problem. Most children stop sucking their thumbs sometime between ages 3 and 6. But children who suck their thumbs often or with a lot of force after the age of 3 or 4 may develop emotional, dental, or speech problems. For more information, see the topic Thumb-Sucking.
  • Breath-holding spells. These are periods when young children stop breathing, often causing them to pass out (lose consciousness). Breath-holding spells typically happen when a young child is angry, frustrated, in pain, or afraid. The spell is a reflex, not a deliberate behavior. For more information, see the topic Breath-Holding Spells.
  • Aggression. Some preschool children become aggressive and may hurt other children. Hitting, biting, pushing, and shouting are all common forms of aggression. Children's aggressive behavior usually is a normal variation of their temperament. Parents can encourage self-control by teaching positive behavior and how to channel feelings into words. For example:
    • Do not spank or hit your child. It usually doesn't work and only makes the child afraid.
    • Help your child calm down. Then you can talk about better ways to handle feelings.
    • Don't expect changes in behavior right away. It takes time, repetition, and supportive comments for a child to learn.

Toilet training

Each child learns to use the toilet at his or her own pace. Most children are ready for toilet training when they are between 22 and 30 months of age.

It can be hard to know when to start toilet training. Your child's physical and emotional readiness is the most important aspect of the timing. You and your child will likely become frustrated if you try toilet training before your child is ready.

For more information, see the topic Toilet Training.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 18, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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