Challenging Toddler Behaviors and How to Respond to Them

June 21, 2019

Once your child becomes a toddler, some cool things start to happen. Around ages 2-3, children begin to adopt their own identity as a person, as well as start to grasp some basic language skills. You’ll notice them using these language skills to express their wants, needs, likes, and dislikes.

However, even though they’ve began learning how to assert themselves, there’s still a long way to go before your child learns that the world doesn’t revolve around them. This mismatch manifests as various frustrating toddler behaviors that many parents know all too well. But if you don’t respond correctly, you can make the problem even worse. Keep reading so you can identify these behaviors and learn how to respond.

One extremely familiar toddler behavioral issue is screaming. Toddlers are just discovering that they can command attention with loud noises, but they don’t realize how it affects other people so they might scream if you don’t give them immediate attention. Whatever you do, don’t scream back as your toddler will just try to scream louder. Instead, try to turn it into a game of who can be quieter. If your toddler’s screaming out of fear or overwhelm, like in a crowded public place, get out of there as fast as whatever you’re doing allows. To minimize screaming episodes, make sure your child is rested and fed before taking them anywhere.

Similar to screaming, toddlers can be prone to unexpected interruptions. Such interruptions can be frustrating if you’re trying to have conversations with others. Toddler’s brains don’t have a fully developed short-term memory, so it’s impossible to convey to them the concept of rudeness when they’re interrupting you as they won’t understand that other things require your attention too. One of the best temporary fixes is to schedule play dates with other children. While your child is busy hanging out with another toddler, chat away. Toddlers learn a lot by imitation, so make your best effort to apologize any time you interrupt someone else. You can also read them books about manners to reinforce that they shouldn’t interrupt.

We can’t forget tantrums, which seem to be a favorite activity among toddlers. Tantrums can come seemingly out of nowhere, yet they’re hard to stop. Believe it or not, toddlers don’t scream and cry to force you to do something; rather, their ability to express themselves through language is not on par with their ability to understand language, so they express their frustrations with tantrums. As tempting as it may be to yell back, keep your cool at all costs. Yelling will only make it worse. Stick with your child while they’re having the tantrum, but don’t give into any demands as that can teach them the wrong idea about how to get what they want.

Sometimes, your child may resort to aggressive behavior like hitting or biting if they’re especially frustrated. Believe it or not, aggression is a normal part of a toddler’s development resulting from their yearning for independence. However, aggression isn’t acceptable, so you’ll need to show your child why they shouldn’t do those things. As with most toddler behavior problems, don’t yell or hit back as that’ll teach them the wrong idea. Instead, make use of a short time-out if your toddler displays aggression. Stay consistent with your disciplining habits and eventually they’ll realize why they’re being punished and might start to display good behavior. Make sure to reinforce this good behavior with praise to guide them away from using violence to get what they want.

There are many other challenging toddler behaviors, but similar advice applies to them. Don’t yell, scream, or hit back at your toddler as they won’t understand. Stay cool but be stern when punishing them. Your efforts will pay off when they start connecting the dots and discovering what good behavior is and what it isn’t.

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