Posted on 16. November 2017 by
As all parents know, toddlers are some of the most adorable little people on the planet – and what with those kissable cheeks, those gorgeous baby curls and that tendency to give big, loving hugs, how could they not be? But as parents also know, these exact same fonts of cuteness also have the power to drive you right to distraction... and they do tend to use it. Just about every day.
The good news is that most of these frustrating toddler behaviours are actually happening for some very good reasons. That’s right – those same annoying habits that force you to regularly practice your Zen-master deep breathing exercises are actually teaching your child important lessons. Here are five of the most common toddler annoyances, and why they’re actually essential to your child’s development.
1. Saying “No!”
Toddlers are the Jedi Masters of refusal – and it can often seem like they use the force of this simple two-letter word just for the thrill of frustrating their parents. But all those “no’s” aren’t quite what they seem.
A newborn baby has no concept of self; they literally don’t yet understand that they are a separate being, and not a part of Mum. By around age 2, though, kids are starting to develop a sense of themselves, and with this developmental leap often comes a sudden - and often startling - desire to control things around them. This might mean saying “no” to everything (even, confusingly, things that they actually want), or refusing help with a task (“Me do it!” is a classic toddler phrase).
Yes, it may make you clench your teeth at times – especially when you’re trying to get out the door and your little one insists on putting his own shoes on – but each time your child expresses this kind of independence, they’re learning a little bit more about their own power and how they relate to the world around them.
2. Making a mess.
Is there any force on earth with more mess-making power than a toddler? Wait – before you answer that question, leave a two-year-old alone for five minutes with a marker pen, a bowl of spag bol and a large box of tissues. We dare you.
Every parent has had those moments – the ones when you realise to your horror that your child has been quiet just a little too long. But despite the carnage they leave in their wake – and the time and effort it takes to clean it all up again – toddler mess-making is actually teaching some really important lessons. Repetitive tasks like taking every tissue out of the box may leave your lounge looking like the set of White Christmas, but they’re also great for developing fine motor control. And even dinnertime mess has its purpose; as one recent study found, toddlers who “experienced” their food by squishing, mashing and even tossing it on the floor learned the names of those foods faster and more accurately than tidier eaters did.
3. Asking “why?”
Along with “no,” “why” is probably the second most common word in the average toddler’s vocabulary. And yes, it can make even the most patient, committed parent want to tear his or her hair out by the 3,589th repetition. But as you’ve probably already guessed, this incessant questioning is really just your child trying to make sense out of what they see around them.
Between birth and age 3, your little one’s brain is growing at an absolutely phenomenal rate – creating on the order of 700 new connections every second. And all those neurons (far more than we adults have, by the way) are working hard to put together a model of how the world works. If you think this makes your toddler sound like a tiny mad scientist, you’re not far off the mark! Your best bet is to just take a deep breath and have a stab at answering all those questions... and try to be flattered instead of frustrated. After all, at this age, your little one still thinks you know everything!
4. Pushing boundaries.
You know the scenario. Your toddler is headed for the TV remote – for the tenth time today. From across the room, you say, “No, don’t touch...” but, with a cheeky glance over the shoulder, your little angel proceeds to wreak havoc on the pre-programmed channels.
Frustrating? Undeniably. But this sort of rule-breaking behaviour doesn’t mean your child is trying to drive you mad – or that they’re destined for a life behind bars. Instead, it’s just another way for toddlers to explore their new-found sense of autonomy and power. Don’t give up on boundaries altogether, though – knowing that there are rules helps toddlers feel safe and secure.
5. Being clingy.
If your toddler is happy to play on their own at home, but suddenly fastens to your leg like a limpet at playgroup, it can sometimes feel like part of an evil master plan designed to keep you from (finally!) having a hot cup of tea and a chat with a fellow adult. But as with all these frustrating toddler habits, clinginess is actually a sign of normal toddler development. Think of it as the flip-side to all that independence they’re beginning to show; sometimes, they still need to know that Mum or Dad is right there to back them up and comfort them, no matter what.