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Frustrating Toddler Behaviors And How to Deal With Them

8 min read

By Kristin Whittaker

Parenting a toddler can sometimes feel like the biggest challenge of your life! The so called “terrible twos” easily spread in to the “terrible threes”. This age becomes so difficult because your child is learning how to be independent and express themselves. While they are not intentionally trying to be “terrible” it is understandable why this behavior can be so frustrating. But learning some ways to deal with these behaviors can help your sanity and your toddler. Ages 2-3 are actually some of my favorite ages because I love watching them learn and figure out something new each day. Here are 12 frustrating toddler behaviors and ways to deal with them so that you can enjoy this fun age!

12. Wanting to do things themselves

While it’s a great thing for kids to develop the skills to do things themselves, like put on their shoes and coat, clean up and feed themselves, this can create some frustration. For example, you are trying to rush out the door and your toddler insists on putting their shoes and coat on without any help. “Me do it myself” are the words I would constantly hear. The frustrating part? They aren’t actually able to do it themselves yet!

Here are a couple of solutions that worked great with my kids. Give yourself more time! Sometimes you are in a rush and I get that, but if you know this is bound to happen start getting ready a few minutes earlier or start the cleanup process when you will have enough time. Also give your children options. “Mommy will put your coat on this time and you can do it next time” or “Would you like to put on your coat or your shoes?”.

11. Not doing things themselves

Once you’ve dealt with your child wanting to do things themselves, suddenly they seem unable to do anything on their own! They can no longer do the simplest tasks they had no problem doing every other day. It can be really easy to get angry when they refuse to do something you know they are capable of doing.

Try encouraging them by bringing up the time they did complete the task before. Or you can offer to help them once they try on their own first. I always tell my children that I just want to see them try on their own and if they can’t do it I’m happy to help them.

10. Hitting/Biting

Majority of the time when your toddler hits or bites another child they are not intentionally trying to be malicious. They are still learning how to control their emotions and act appropriately when they are upset. Neverless, it can be super embarrassing when you are having a playdate and your child hurts another child.

Removing your child from the situation is the first and best solution. Don’t allow them to remain with the child (or adult) when they are acting that way. Explain to them that it’s not nice to hurt our friends and help them to learn better ways to deal with their anger. For example, tell them to use their words or walk away. Toddlers are smarter than we think and they can quickly pick up on cause and effect (hitting and biting hurt).

9. Not sharing

Toddlers are still not fully able to see beyond themselves so when they are refusing to share it’s not to be mean. It’s just that they want what they want and don’t understand why anyone else should get it too!

Giving them a time limit is a great way to encourage sharing. I will usually say “you get two more minutes with that toy and then it’s someone else’s turn”. Almost always they are willing to give it up after you have given them this expectation.

8. Temper tantrums

The screaming and crying, throw themselves on the ground, refusing to move temper tantrums are enough to make your hair fall out! Sometimes they can be about something as silly as you poured their water the wrong way. These meltdowns are one of the most frustrating behaviors in my opinion because they are the most disruptive and can be completely mortifying when you are out in public.

I cannot emphasize this enough though…never give in to a temper tantrum! If you start giving them what they want when they behave this way they will start doing it every time you say no to something. The best thing you can do is wait for them to calm down. If you are in public just ignore the behavior and pick them up and leave if you need to. They will eventually settle down and then you can have a conversation about their behavior.

7. Constantly saying “no”

It feel like the word “no” is the only response my kids knew in the toddler years. The answer to everything I said whether it was clean up or come here seemed to be no, as if they didn’t know the word yes existed. Again, it feels like your child is being openly defiant, however, your child is just exercising their new found independence and ability to object to something.

One big way to avoid this is to try not to say no yourself. Try using phrases like “don’t do that” or “not right now” instead of just no. Also since kids are learning proper phrases when they say no you can give them a better response to say.

6. Throwing things

This can be anything from food to a ball at the tv. Toddlers love to throw things! Sometimes they can grow out of the throwing food phase before the toddler age but when they are still throwing food and toys and basically anything they can get a hold of at this stage it can become very frustrating.

The biggest thing I can say is if they throw something give them one chance to not do it again. If they throw it again then take it away. They learn pretty quickly that you mean business and they cannot get away with throwing it. Also don’t give them a big reaction as that may be what they are looking for. Simply take the item away and move on!

5. Picky Eating

Once your child starts feeding themselves and having more of a say in what they eat they will also start to refuse to eat certain foods. And it’s usually something they liked the day before. I don’t force my kids to eat something they have tried before and didn’t like. But if they have eaten it and liked it before then I don’t allow them to have something else. Eventually they will give in and eat it if they are hungry enough.

If you want to expand their pallet and they refuse to try something try giving it to them with other kids around. It doesn’t always work but a lot of the times when they see other kids enjoying it they will want to give it a try.

4. Coloring on everything

Maybe my kids are the only ones that do this, but without fail, if my toddler is left with any sort of writing utensil she will always find something to color on and paper is not a necessity! Most often they are coloring on themselves but I have found marker all the way up the stairs, on the carpet and on the furniture. And don’t get me started on what happens if you leave a permanent marker out by accident.

Honestly, the best way to handle this is to just never leave your toddler unattended with any writing utensil. As much as I want to yell and get angry with my toddler I do have to own up to my responsibility in it. You can also just continuously remind them that crayons and markers are only for paper.

3. Running off

I’ll be completely honest here…I have lost my child in Walmart. I allowed her to walk and turned my back for a second and she took off. It was terrifying. I’ve also had kids run ahead of me towards a road. Running away can be incredibly frustrating because it’s such a big safety issue. The road is dangerous, getting lost is dangerous, and having to run down the street after your child is not exactly the type of exercise you were hoping for.

When safety is an issue I am very harsh and blunt. Running on to the road means getting hit by a car. Running away in the store means getting taken or lost. I also let them know how much it scares me so that they can understand that it actually upsets mommy. If they don’t stay close they no longer get to walk on their own!

2. Not Listening

Toddlers are at the age where they learn that they can actually do what they want. So if you ask them to come see you, they can choose to ignore that. Sometimes kids can get in to their own little world though and are not intentionally ignoring you.

Going right up to your child and having them look you in the eye is a great way to encourage listening. Try to get down to their level so you aren’t towering over them. Once you fully have their attention it actually is a lot harder for them to ignore you, no matter how much they want to!

1. Refusing to potty train

Potty training can be an easy or horrible experience. I think I cried for 3 days in a row trying to potty train my son. There was just no way he was going to stop what he was doing to go to the toilet. Some kids will have no problem peeing on the toilet but will absolutely not poop anywhere but their diaper.

While the idea of being done with diapers is incredibly appealing, the reality is, if your child is not ready you will not be successful! After the difficulty with my son I decided to just let my girls decide when they were ready to potty train. As soon as they decided they wanted to wear underwear potty training was a breeze. The biggest thing is to be consistent though. Don’t decide to potty train and then go back to diapers, then back to potty training and back to diapers again.

Kristin Whittaker




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