The secret of Trump’s success? He speaks to our inner toddler.

Angry little boy glaring and fighting with his brother

Donald Trump reminds me of someone I used to know. Actually he reminds me of four little someones, my children when they were toddlers. That’s not a coincidence and I suspect that’s the secret of Trump’s appeal: he speaks to our inner toddler.

Trump has been called a racist, a misogynist, a demagogue and worse. He has become the Republican nominee for president despite an utter absence of domestic or foreign policy proposals. Most of his followers have no special liking for him personally; he’s not the kind of guy they imagine inviting over for a barbecue and a beer. Indeed many of his followers don’t even believe that he has any intention of or ability to bring about the few proposals he has suggested such as a wall between the US and Mexico.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Most of us don’t want our country to be run by a misogynist bigot with poor impulse control.[/pullquote]

Yet Trump remains wildly popular among a certain segment of society because he speaks to their inner toddler.

What do I mean by that?

One of my favorite parenting books was Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall by Anthony Wolf, PhD. Wolf argues that many of the discipline issues that arise in parenting come about as a result of the child’s inner struggle between the independent (adult) self and the baby self. The child wants to become an independent adult, but the behaviors of childhood are deeply comforting. The same child who is the model student in school crosses the threshold of his home and promptly drops books, coat and everything else on the floor even though the closet is only steps away. Why does the mature child who kept it together for the entire school day suddenly disintegrate on entering his home? Because being mature is hard and being a child is easy, comfortable and comforting.

Trump’s campaign resonates with voters because Trump himself acts like a toddler and encourages his followers to give into their most immature toddler-like behavior.

How does Trump resemble a toddler? Let me count the ways:

1. Trump, like all toddlers, is a narcissist. He can see the world and the people in it only through the prism of his own needs and desires. It is always about him. Only someone with the maturity of a two-year-old could greet the news of a massacre in an Orlando gay nightclub with the inane response of appreciation for the congratulations for being right about Islamic terrorism.

It was a bizarre response no matter how you look at it. First of all, the congratulations existed only in his own mind. Not only is there no evidence that anyone was congratulating Trump, on what planet would anyone send anyone else “congratulations” for predicting a massacre? Second, everyone who isn’t living under a rock is afraid of Islamic terrorism and expects to see more of it. Third, who congratulates himself before offering condolences to the victims of the massacre and their loved ones? Only someone suffering from toddler grade narcissism.

2. Trump has exceedingly poor impulse control. One of the most notable things about toddlers is that they cannot control their own emotions and actions. On more than one occasion I observed my toddlers doing something they were expressly told not to do (writing on the wall, for example) while simultaneously scolding themselves for doing it. They had enough awareness to recognize that they shouldn’t write on the wall, but not enough self-control to keep themselves from doing so. Trump routinely shoots his mouth off before putting his brain in gear. Like a toddler, he just can’t help himself.

3. Toddlers love bad words. When I disciplined my toddlers or refused to buy them something they wanted, they occasionally reacted by calling me a “poopy head,” which in their minds passed for a witty epithet. Trump behaves the same way, referring to Crooked Hilary and Crazy Bernie, and imagining he is regaling us with “bon mots.”

4. Trump thinks girls have “cooties.” Trump isn’t merely a misogynist; he appears to fear women and degrades them to manage that fear.

Slate quotes those who worked with him on The Apprentice:

“He would talk about the female contestants’ bodies a lot from the control room,” recalls one midlevel producer. “We shot in Trump Tower, the control room was on the seventh floor, and he walked in one day and was talking about a contestant, saying, ‘Her breasts were so much bigger at the casting. Maybe she had her period then.’ He knows he’s mic’d and that 30 people are hearing this, but he didn’t care. That’s kind of him. During the campaign, when he was talking about Megyn Kelly, I thought: He’s obsessed with menstruation.”

5. Toddlers hate sharing and Trump does, too. Most toddlers, when first apprised of the concept of sharing, are dumbfounded. Why on earth would they share something in their possession? That appears to be Trump’s attitude, too. He gives surprisingly little to charity and then only when forced by journalists’ investigations to do so.

6. Trump always wants to throw people out. Trump seems to think America is his secret clubhouse and he’s going to build a wall to keep out Mexicans, use immigration policies to keep out Muslims, pull the press credentials of news organizations to keep out those who are “unfair” to him.

7. Trump, like most toddlers, insists that everything is someone else’s fault. It’s the immigrants! It’s the Muslims! It anyone who doesn’t look like us!

Trump himself has an extraordinarily long list of failures. He’s created more businesses that failed than just about anyone you can name. He inherited millions of dollars and how has only millions of dollars to show for it. He routinely refuses to pay his bills, and considers himself a genius for behaving like a thief. He won’t release his tax returns and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to suspect that’s because they would reveal that HE, and no one else, is responsible for his own failures.

All of us have an inner toddler. It’s enjoyable to think the world revolves around us; it’s fun to give into every impulse; we love using bad words; many of us still think girls have cooties; we hate sharing and we’d all love to throw out those who aren’t our friends; above all, it’s much more fun to blame our failures on other people than to accept responsibility for them.

Most of us don’t give into those impulses because we are adults and we understand that if everyone in the world behaved like toddlers the world would be even more dangerous than it already is.

In my view, this election is not going to be about Trump vs. Clinton; it’s going to be about toddlers vs. adults. A Trumpertantrum, like a toddler tantrum, can be very amusing, but most of us don’t want our country to be run by a misogynist bigot with poor impulse control. The adults among us are going to vote for Hilary, even if they don’t like her and even if they have to grit their teeth to do it. Those with poor impulse control aren’t going to be able to control their impulse to vote for Trump, not because he’s going to do what he says (even they don’t believe that), but because they’d rather have a toddler tantrum than grow up.

26 Responses to “The secret of Trump’s success? He speaks to our inner toddler.”

  1. MichelleJo
    June 29, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

    Hillary is in. It’s not worth stressing over Trump’s idiocy and his many other qualities. In a few months, no one will remember his name. I generally lean towards the right, but if I was an American, this year I’d just stay home.

  2. stenvenywrites
    June 27, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

    Trump prides himself on his ability to be “politically incorrect.” I once explained to my son that there are 3 reasons why we don’t throw rocks at other peoples’ heads: 1)Jesus wants us to treat other people with love and kindness ; 2) if people threw rocks at each others’ heads at the park all the time, it would be a very unsafe place to play; and 3)if you throw rocks at other peoples’ heads no one will like you or invite you to any of their park days or parties. He was 4, and consequently a complete narcissist, so #3 was the major motivator (that time — he’s 19 now and actually quite a nice person.) Trump, also 4, assumes that the only reason anyone would be “politically correct” — i.e., treat others with respect and kindness — would be, not that they’re an innately respectful and kind person, but that they’re afraid of the personal social consequences. I know nothing about his mother, but I suspect she’d be disappointed.

    • MaineJen
      June 29, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

      Whenever someone complains about “too much political correctness,” all I hear is “I miss the days when everyone thought racist jokes were funny.”

  3. RMY
    June 18, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

    He’s personified id in a business suit. Sadly, he’s what too many people aspire to achieve for themselves (having a lot of money, gained in an industry that doesn’t totally baffle them, no censor on verbalizing his internal monologue).

  4. BeatriceC
    June 17, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    OT: My inner toddler is having a meltdown this morning. I live two blocks from a middle school and three blocks from an elementary school (five blocks from a high school, but they’re already out for the summer). My son goes to a different school, more appropriate for his needs than a traditional school. It’s farther away and a bus picks him up and drops him off right in front of the house. Today is the last day of school for the k-8 district. They’re having assemblies and graduations and such, so all the parents are arriving at school, which means they need a place to park. Which means they’re parking on my street. This is normally not a problem, except that my youngest son gets picked up by a bus with a wheelchair lift, and the hill my house is on is pretty steep and there’s a very small area where the bus can park and get the lift down on the street. People parking for the schools have blocked the area where the bus needs to park. Nobody is doing anything wrong, but it’s still annoying. As soon as the city opens, I’m calling them to discuss options so this doesn’t happen again.

    • MI Dawn
      June 17, 2016 at 10:54 am #

      Good luck! Maybe you can get the city to mark off the bus area in some way?

      • BeatriceC
        June 17, 2016 at 10:59 am #

        Thanks. I’m hoping that they can do something like come out and put temporary “no parking” barricades on the appropriate days. Technically, we’re eligible to have two handicapped parking spots painted on the street in front of the house (OK and YK both have permanent handicapped parking placards, so we’re eligible for one parking place for each resident with a valid permit), but I don’t think we need anything permanent like that. I’m perfectly content with blocking off the appropriate spaces just on the days where there’s likely to be a lot of people parking on our street during bus drop off or pick up times.

        • AA
          June 17, 2016 at 11:50 am #

          Cones should do the trick temporarily.

          • BeatriceC
            June 17, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

            The bus driver just parked in the middle of the street this morning. He made a few people unhappy, but he’s legally allowed to do that on residential streets with posted speed limits under 30mph, which ours qualifies. It shouldn’t be a problem this afternoon, but I want things more official by the start of next school year.

        • MI Dawn
          June 17, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

          Yeah, that would work. Barricades are probably better, since they usually have “Police” on them; people will move cones if they inconvenience them. Not to say they won’t move a barricade, but it’s not as easy.

  5. monojo
    June 17, 2016 at 10:14 am #


  6. Mariana
    June 17, 2016 at 7:39 am #

    It pains me to see that the best working democracy in the world might elect someone like Trump for its highest elected position.
    My country is far from perfect (anyone following the craziness in Brazil? We are impeaching the second president in some 20 years… And discovering that NO ONE is clean… “House of cards” could be a reality TV show here…). But I always thought that all our problems were due to being an immature democracy, and we would learn how to work things out in due time… Now I look at the U.S. and I’m not so sure…

    • demodocus
      June 17, 2016 at 7:56 am #

      i think that the US isn’t actually mature yet, as a nation anyway. Adolescent, maybe. The 2nd oldest democracy (Haiti) isn’t exactly doing all that well, either. We’re still working out our identity and sometimes we make really stupid decisions that baffle our elders and younger siblings alike

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      June 17, 2016 at 8:25 am #

      We are impeaching the second president in some 20 years

      I think the US managed that too…well, actually one resigned before he could be impeached. Don’t worry, these are not system threatening issues, just very, very annoying side effects of democracy.

      • demodocus
        June 17, 2016 at 9:05 am #

        Nixon and Clinton. Plus we had A. Johnson 100 years earlier. Interesting that neither impeachment lead to kicking out the president, but then the reasons for trying Clinton always seemed a bit fuzzy to me. He lied under oath… about having sex with an intern. Wrong of him to do on both counts, but why was Congress asking him?

        • The Computer Ate My Nym
          June 17, 2016 at 9:15 am #

          Politics. Actually, complete irrationality: the impeachment only made Clinton more popular but the Repubs hated him so much that they didn’t care. I think A Johnson was much the same.

          Interestingly, Reagan, who committed high treason with Iran-Contra, was not impeached.

          • demodocus
            June 17, 2016 at 9:16 am #

            And considering the extracurricular activities of several of the top republicans then…

          • Roadstergal
            June 17, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

            Seriously. Like the only thing Clinton did wrong in their eyes was to have an adult as the other person involved?

          • demodocus
            June 17, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

            Well, Gingrich only cheated on his wife with other adults, too.

    • Charybdis
      June 17, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

      I tend to think (probably incorrectly) that those who are “for” Trump aren’t necessarily “FOR” him. I think that they are so fed up with the gridlock and dysfunctionality of politics in general and the elected officials not listening, truly listening, to their constituents, that they are effectively saying “Screw you all. We are sick and tired of the status quo and the divisive partisan politics that do nothing. You don’t listen, really listen to us, the unwashed masses and we are tired of it.”

      They are not hearing and understanding what people want/need and are sick of with the government. So, the best way to communicate dissatisfaction is to vote for the candidate who is AGAINST the political machine candidates. Trump is brash, loud, rude, crude and socially unacceptable, and this is the antithesis of the slick, professional political candidates that have fallen by the wayside as Trump has continued to astound, astonish, alarm and confuse the parties, pundits, talking heads and campaigns of the others.

      Voting for Trump sends a discomfiting message that the pro politicians don’t seem to know how to deal with, or like very much.

      Just my two cents.

  7. Dr. W
    June 17, 2016 at 7:06 am #

    Well if anything were going to make Amy more political, Trump is a fine choice. I disagree with Trump on a host of things, but the point I try to emphasize with Trump supporters is based on Amy’s theme. I ask, “How easy is it to imagine President Trump getting frustrated and deciding to use nuclear weapons?” Toddlers and nukes do not mix. Well, I suppose they could, but we would all die.

  8. Zornorph
    June 17, 2016 at 12:13 am #

    I’m no Trump supporter, but I’m not keen on this focus on electoral politics, here.

  9. June 16, 2016 at 7:20 pm #

    Dead on, but I feel like toddlers as a group are being inadvertently insulted.

    See, most toddlers I know have a budding level of empathy. When they see someone who is hurt or visibly sad, toddlers will generally try to make them feel better. Does a toddler know how best to do that? Well, not always, but adults get that it is the thought that counts – and being handed a child’s favorite toy truck does make me feel better.

    I’ve never seen Trump show any sign of empathy for anyone or anything. He sorts the world into two categories – Useful Tools and Discardable Fools.

    • demodocus
      June 16, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

      kiddo gave me his toy dump truck when i was wicked sick several weeks ago. Very sweet

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      June 17, 2016 at 10:12 am #

      I agree with Mel. This is a disservice to toddlers. My kids when they were toddlers were nothing like Donald Trump. And I can say the same for most of their friends (well, all of their actual “friends;” not necessarily all of their daycare mates, who are all called friends, regardless)

      He acts more like the brats and bullies. That’s not a general property of toddlers.

  10. TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya
    June 16, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

    #3 is my favourite. “…imagining he is regaling us with ‘bon mots’.” Hilarious!

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