How to Understand Your Preschoolers Emotions

As children grow, their personalities develop more and more each day. By the time a child reaches preschool age, she has become her own person with a distinct set of likes and dislikes. She is learning so much through experiences within her environment, and she seeks to increase her independence. While a 3-4-year-old preschooler may be getting better at identifying his feelings using words, it’s important to remember that he hasn’t quite developed the ability to control his emotions and impulses yet. The concept of waiting for something, such as his turn with the desired toy, or a special treat after dinner, means little to him. He wants what he wants, and he wants it now.

While a child’s mood swings may seem dramatic with laughter one minute and anguished cries the next, they experience the same gamut of emotions as adults. They simply haven’t figured out how to cope with them yet. Here are a few of the emotions a preschooler may experience throughout the day, along with why each one is important for a child’s continued mental growth.


The expression of anger can come in many different forms. These include physical forms, such as biting, pushing, or hitting, and verbal forms, such as screaming and crying. Anger can also come in the form of disobedience, defiance, and stubbornness. But what causes anger in 3-4-year-olds? Generally, it arises when a limitation is placed on the child. For example, when you tell her she can’t do something or when he continuously fails to build that block tower. It can also be triggered by life changes such as a new sibling or a home relocation.

While dealing with an angry outburst from your preschooler can trigger your own anger and frustration, it is important to remember that anger is an essential emotion for a child’s mental growth. When turned in the right direction, anger can make us more capable and resilient people. Learning to verbally express feelings rather than suppressing them helps to release the anger rather than letting it build up.


Determining if a child is sad can be tricky since tears tend to flow freely during childhood. However, crying isn’t necessarily a sign that a child is sad. A sad child generally looks more passive, subdued, and quietly keeping to themselves as they try to deal with their feelings. Sadness can be brought on by anything from the loss of a toy to the death of a family member. This emotion is important for a child’s emotional growth since it shows that they care and value someone or something. Acknowledging a child’s feelings of sadness rather than minimizing this emotion can help her learn to cope with them.

Happy Little Kids


As children explore their world, experience new things, and confront new challenges, it is completely normal for a child to amass a collection of fears and anxieties. Some of these fears may be specific, such as a fear of the dark or a fear of dogs. Others may be harder to determine, and your preschooler may not be able to put them into words. The development of fears is a sign of a child’s mental growth. It means that he can use ideas and experiences and come up with his own explanations for them. Acknowledging a child’s fear while being reassuring and supportive can help her cope with and overcome that fear.


Preschoolers tend to be some of the most loving and affectionate people you will encounter. However, a 3-4-year-olds love for himself tends to lead to a stronger desire for personal gratification rather than considering the feelings of others. For example, a child may push another out of the way so that she can experience the playground slide first. She wasn’t necessarily being malicious but learning to empathize and consider how her actions affect others is a difficult concept when her first thought is of instant gratification. Empathy needs to be repeatedly modeled and encouraged by adults before it can be part of a child’s behavior.

While 3-4-year-old’s may be able to identify these emotions, it will take practice to learn to control them. Enrolling your child in a high-quality preschool in Franklin, TN, is a wonderful way to encourage and promote their continued mental and emotional growth. Contact THE Children’s Academy for more information on both their Spring Hill and Franklin, TN, preschool programs.