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How to deal with a toddler falling in love

A proposal from your three-year-old may seem odd, but it’s perfectly normal

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It must be love!

Wiping strawberry yogurt from around your toddler’s mouth is hardly the perfect moment for a marriage proposal. So as he hiccups his breakfast down and sweetly asks “Mummy, will you marry me?”, you could be forgiven for feeling a little lost for words.

Rest assured, this is a perfectly healthy question – even if it did come from your three-year-old son. “Between three and five years of age, children experience an awakening of their senses about what it means to be male or female,” explains child psychologist and author Linda Blair. “They will start thinking about what makes them a boy and who the woman of their dreams is. Their template for a woman is their mother so, of course, it’s you whom they will see as their ideal woman.”

The key to declining the proposal is to be positive. “Simply explain that you’re his mummy and perhaps that you’re already with daddy,” says Linda. “Say that as his mummy you love him very much and that it’s a very special relationship that you don’t want to change.”

In no time at all, you’ll find his attentions have moved elsewhere. Enter his new love interest, the lovely Lulu – or indeed, Louis. Every day, you’ll be hosting play dates and you’ll hear of little else. From the outside, this blossoming relationship may seem a little intimate, but early bonds between children are an exciting adventure of self-discovery. “As children become aware of themselves, they start to wonder what else it means to be ‘me’,” explains Linda. “Whether it’s because they want to be like that person or because their friend gets lots of attention, there is something specific that attracts them. Through their apparent crush, they come to understand themselves better and discover how they are different to or the same as their friend.”


This article previously appeared in Junior magazine as a print article

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