Toddler behavior can be unpredictable at the best of times. Two seconds ago they were playing happily with another little one, but now all of a sudden both kids are crying.
And yesterday they loved mashed potatoes, but today they’re throwing them on the floor.
They were sleeping great, but now they cry for three hours every night.
What’s around the corner? Mama, this is totally normal. Welcome to toddlerhood!
You’ve got to feel for the little ones. They’re in a clumsy body that’s changing rapidly. They’re in a world that they’re only just learning about. And then, when they’re out exploring, they discover that not everything can go their way? Not fair!
What are typical behaviors for toddlers?
First up, what’s normal behavior for a two year old? Cuteness and curiosity aside, what are some of the “less charming” toddler behaviors you might encounter?
Tantrums. Tantrums are a normal part of toddlerhood. They can be caused by pretty much anything, from having to stop their play to being given the wrong color spoon. Toddlers haven’t quite figured out how to deal with all the emotions they’re feeling – and so they might try to cope by acting out.
Picky eating. Don’t be offended if your two-year-old makes a fuss about the meal you so lovingly created for them. Their growth has slowed down a bit by the age of two, so they might not be quite as hungry. Plus, they’re starting to develop food preferences. And when toddlers dislike something, well, they really dislike it.
Aggression and violence. This can be a big shock. Your little newborn was so gentle, but now they’ve started to bite and hit! Just like tantrums, this is another way toddlers tend to deal with their big emotions.
Bedtime struggles. Sleep refusal is a normal toddler behavior. They have serious FOMO, and this bedtime nuisance is getting in the way of all their playing.
Most toddler behavior is totally normal. They’re pushing boundaries to learn what’s acceptable, which will eventually help them become a good law-abiding citizen in the future.
When should I worry about my toddler’s behavior?
In most cases, you’ll need to ride out “bad” toddler behaviors with some patience and loving guidance. But in other situations, you might need a bit of extra professional help.
If you’re wondering, how do I know if my toddler has behavioral problems?, here are some cases where you might want to reach out for another level of support:
If it’s causing distress for you and your family. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, if your toddler’s siblings are suffering, or if others are being affected negatively by your toddler, reach out to your pediatrician. They’re here to help you!
If big tantrums are happening more than 2-3 times a day, or your toddler struggles to return to calmness afterwards. In these cases, they might benefit from a little coaching in how to regulate their mood from someone trained in toddler behavior.
If your toddler is hitting or harming themselves. Sadly, hitting other children is a common toddler milestone – but self-harm might signal the need for extra help.
If they’re unusually afraid of going to bed. While difficulty settling down to sleep is a classic feature of the “terrible twos”, extreme fears may be a sign of anxiety. Call your pediatrician if you think this might be the case.
*Top tips for managing toddler behavior
If your little one is struggling with their behavior, it can be tough times for everyone involved. You’ll need a lot of patience to help them through it. But the worst parts will almost always pass. In the meantime, here are a few parenting tips for toddler mamas:
If possible, take a timeout. Self-care is always valuable. If you’re lucky enough to have a support network around you – partners, friends, family, or a caregiver, you’ll definitely benefit from subbing out every now and then for a little breather. This may well give you the break you need to guide your little one through their difficulties.
Sometimes, just listening can help a lot. If your little one is acting out, you might be able to help them express their feelings safely and securely, using words like “mad” or “afraid”. It’s natural for every human to want to be listened to, even toddlers, and this can help them develop healthy ways of managing their feelings.
And when your little one is being disruptive or difficult, you can try giving them options, such as “you can’t hit mama, but you can tell me why you are upset.”
Praise good behavior. There are lots of daily situations where you’ll have to tell your little one “no”. Reinforcing good behavior through regular praise is just as important, and can help them understand how they’ll benefit by following your guidance.
Stay firm on the big rules. Naturally, there are some things that toddlers just can’t do. Stepping out into the road without looking. Punching and kicking. You know.
Encourage good habits through play. Engage your toddler in activities that encourage sharing and patience (e.g. waiting their turn for something). Games that involve rolling a ball to each other, or telling a story, for example.
If you’re struggling to help your little one through a tough period of toddler development, remember you’re not alone. You can speak to your healthcare provider any time, and the Peanut community is here to provide extra support, information, and encouragement.
You’re doing a great job, mama!