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.