Understanding Toddler Behaviour

Why is understanding toddler behaviour so important? If we know what is going on in our little one's head then it keeps us calmer when they start playing up.

Remember that toddlers have neither the self-awareness nor the language to communicate what makes them tick - we just have to work it out for ourselves.

The good news is that, in many ways, young children are very predictable, and this makes understanding them so much easier.


It's Hard Being A Toddler

Imagine you get a job in a country on the other side of the world, where you understand only some of the language and culture.

On your first day at work, the computers use a programme you've never seen before - but you don't know how to ask for help. People try to tell you when the lunch break is - but the clocks all seem to run backwards.

How would you feel if you were landed in this situation?

Confused, emotional and frustrated?

This is how toddlers often feel - everything is new to them. Walking has given them a new lease of life but there's no set of instructions to go with it.

Could you honestly say you wouldn't have a tantrum under these circumstances?

6 Reasons For Problem Toddler Behaviour

Bad Toddlers behaviour basically comes down to six basic reasons:

Next time your little treasure starts raising hell, ask yourself what is going on for them. This does not mean that you should let them get away with wreaking havoc - but it will help you deal with problems more calmly

Not All Bad Toddler Behaviour Is Really Bad

There is no doubt that toddlers can be manipulative and sly at times.

However, some of what appears to be misbehaving is not intentional and actually quite innocent.

Tiredness and emotional upset are pretty easy to spot. As well as these, look out for:


Have you ever lost your temper when your computer froze or when trying to get through to that elusive complaints department on the phone?

Life is full of such moments for toddlers: not being able to communicate properly, learning new games and puzzles, climbing, riding a trike...the list is endless.

It is best to patiently help your frustrated child in this situation. He simply doesn't have the experience to know that he will master all these skills eventually.

It's not necessarily bad toddler behaviour.


Young children learn by exploring their world. They don't automatically know the oven is hot, much less how painful hot can be. A brightly painted ornament just out of reach becomes an interesting challenge for the average toddler.

It is up to you to keep dangerous/expensive/breakable things out of the toddler's sight, not just reach.

Unfortunately we cannot keep the oven or busy roads out of reach. Constant supervision and explanations are needed.

Routines also help - crossing the road is now a ritual for me and my toddler: Hold hands - "Any cars?" - "Walk, don't run".

Never expect toddlers to control their curiosity - you'll have as much success as you would organising a snowstorm in the middle of a heatwave.

Younger Toddlers

Experts agree that before the age of 2, all seemingly 'naughty' behaviour is completely innocent. Find out why - go to understanding younger toddlers.

New Toddler Taming, page 37, by Christopher Green, 2001. Published by Vermillion.

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