Covid-era kids tend to be more fussy and defiant than previous generations. They have more difficulties socializing and are uncomfortable in playgroups and at school. They struggle to understand personal boundaries and seem to be more in need of undivided attention. Recent research shows that words like fussy, defiant, fearful, and anxious have become common adjectives to describe pandemic-era toddlers. What to do about such challenging behavior?

Early childhood experts think it's the role of parents and caregivers to help kids better control their emotions and teach them good behavior through play. Children's first language is emotion. They learn from their observations and how their parents and caregivers respond to them. Before they acquire language, their behavior is one of the only ways to express their feelings, which may be sad, scary, and confusing nowadays. So, instead of punishing kids, it's important to look for the reasons that led them to misbehave. What were they really trying to say? The goal is to help them identify what they are feeling and then translate it in a constructive way. Children who can manage their emotions are better able to solve problems, feel much more in control of themselves, and are more confident and competent.

Of course, parents, caregivers, and preschool teachers are crucial role models in matters of early childhood socialization. During their first years, young kids closely observe and imitate the adults who care for them. "Children don't miss a thing," said Marina Rodriguez, senior director at All Our Kin, a national Connecticut-based nonprofit that trains and supports family child care providers. A good reason to pay attention to our own habits whenever we interact with a child.

Picture: Children in the Park (