Five tricky toddler behaviours

They’re your little angels...most of the time. But parenting toddlers can be a challenge before they even reach the ‘terrible twos’. Here’s some advice from parents on the toughest toddler behaviours and how to cope with them.

At some point, even the easiest little one might start pushing your buttons. As they turn into a mini individual with their own opinions, you could find your patience being tested.

We asked mums and dads about the most difficult toddler behaviours they encounter, and have listed them here in plain sight. We can’t promise tantrums will disappear but at least you’ll know you’re not alone.

1. Food Frustrations

No surprises here – worries about food related issues are common.

“Rex is so specific about how I serve his snacks. If I break a banana in half I’ve ruined it. If I offer breadsticks he demands one in each hand. I try to just go with the flow as much as possible. It minimises tantrums and stress. And I know from my older daughter it’s a phase he’ll grow out of.” Katy, mum to Lyla, three years and Rex, 19 months.

“I try not to make an issue of or fuss over food, and lead by example. As often as possible, we’ll eat together so I model the behaviour we want her to use. I figure it should have an effect long-term even if it’s not apparent every day.” Lauren, mum to Flo, 17 months.

“Erin throws food the moment she has finished eating. If I’m not quick the floor is covered. I try to keep a straight face and gently but firmly tell her ‘no’. If she continues, I remove her from the highchair and won’t offer her pudding until later.” Sarah-Jayne, mum to Mia, five years, and Erin, 14 months.

2. Sharing (or lack of it)

It seems that toddlers aren’t known for their generosity.

“Sharing is an issue at the moment. I have found the best strategy seems to always be distraction. I’ll try to distract him with something before he has the chance to snatch.” Leyla, mum to Remy, 18 months.

“I offer lots of praise if he does share a toy. And I heap praise on his older sister if she gives something to him.” Lisa, mum to Elsa, 4, and Leon, 15 months.                                                    

“The good thing is that every child her age seems to be equally terrible at sharing. So I don’t feel any judgement from other mums at playgroups.” Lara, mum to Beth, 20 months.

3. Running away

Some little ones like to show off their newly acquired running skills. But mums and dads don’t always share the enthusiasm for a jog.

“I like him to be free but not when situations become dangerous. If running full pelt down a hill towards a road means I have to get the reins out, so be it. He’s like greased lightning.” Saskia, mum to Mac, 22 months.

“She has taken to running away whenever I’m trying to get her into the car. I’m just opening the door and she’ll be charging away, laughing her head off. Not so funny for me when I’m seven months pregnant. I try not to make it into a game. I don’t get cross but don’t laugh either. I think she’s realising it’s not so fun if I’m not joining in.” Julie, mum to Nel, 16 months.

4. Hitting and pushing

Flying little fists are very common.

“Luca went through the dreaded hitting stage at about 15 months. We would say ‘no, gentle’, take his hand and stroke whoever he hit. It worked for us.” Brendan, dad to Luca, 23 months.

“Consistency is key for us. If she hits me I put her down straight away and say a firm NO. I then withhold attention for a couple of minutes.” Francesca, mum to Alessia, 20 months.

“I can now spot the signs so I try to jump in and distract before he hits; I use another toy, a snack, whatever is to hand. It’s embarrassing but I know from all my reading that it’s just a phase.” Lydia, mum to Eddie, 17 months.

5. Emotional outbursts

From full-blown tantrums to minor meltdowns, toddler emotions are often running high.

“We’re experiencing so many extremes of behaviour from Sonny at the moment. I feel unable to relax out and about if we’re somewhere adult-orientated. My solution is simply to avoid those sort of places if I can and stick to baby friendly outings. At least I feel less worried about managing his noise levels then.” Allie, mum to Sonny, 22 months.

“Max has started objecting (loudly) to everything. Having his nappy changed or having to remove any clothes are particularly hated. I’ve switched to pull-ups, which are much easier to get on when he’s kicking up.” Bea, mum to Jonathan, four years, and Max, 18 months.

“Sometimes he has a ‘touch everything you’re not meant to/lie on the floor and scream/refuse to hold my hand’ day. I find cake is the only answer. For me.” Emma, mum to Beau, 15 months.

This page was last reviewed in February 2019

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