“Parents often have difficulty telling the difference between variations in normal behavior and true behavioral problems”(HealthyChildren.org), and for toddlers, it can often feel like there isn’t even a difference between the two! As children are learning what they can do versus what we would like them to do, our patience may be tested by some challenging behaviors.
Understanding difficult behaviors may help parents and care providers navigate some tough times. According toFamilyEducation.com, “your toddler is in a difficult spot: Her desire to please you, to love and be loved by you often conflicts with her dawning urge for independence. At this age, there’s no question but that she wants to please you. Yet she has only a very vague idea of what you like her to do.”
As toddlers become more interactive with the world around them, they “will follow their curiosity and will pull things down or apart to see what happens. Ditto with throwing anything onto the floor…(they) might seem bossy and selfish, but keep in mind that anything they are interested in or considers to be theirs will be seen as an extension of themselves” (HeySigmund.com). “’Toddler impulsivity can get a little nutty,’ says Michele Kambolis, a child and family therapist in Vancouver. ‘But while these changes may seem crazy to you, the biting, kicking, hitting, and sudden shifts of feelings are all normal at this age.’ The explosion of brain development that comes around 18 months brings a new self awareness and desire for independence, Kambolis explains, but toddlers have limited language and little grasp of why parents want them to behave a certain way” (TodaysParent.com).
There are a few simple things parents can implement to get through this stage of development. “Ignore the small stuff.There’s so much to learn so it’s best not to overload them. Let them get used to the important things first…Be kind and gentle when correcting.They are doing their very best with what they have.If you ask for too much you might end up with a more anxious or more defiant or less confident three year old” (HeySigmund.com). Help them put words to what they are feeling. Be positive when you see them doing the right things. Use distraction and their short attention spans to redirect them, away from what you don’t want them doing.
It’s important for parents to know that these “difficult” toddler behaviors, such as biting, hair pulling, throwing tantrums, etc, are perfectly normal, if not expected. Children are growing, experiencing, and learning at such a fast pace at this age, that these behaviors are a typical part of their development. The best advice? “Write this down, ‘It won’t be like this forever.’ Now stick it on your mirror where you’ll see it everyday” (HeySigmund.com), and call Peace of Mind at 651-731-2608 if you have any behavioral concerns about your child – toddler or otherwise!