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Is My Toddler Normal?

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Common parent concerns about their toddlers behaviours include when they are impulsive, aggressive and throw tantrums. While some of these behaviours may seem unusual, they are a result rapid neurobiopsychological development. From 18 months onwards, your child will have an explosion of brain development and with it, will come a new sense of self awareness and desire for independence.

The terrible twos is another stage in a toddlers development that is characterized by mood swings, temper tantrums and defiant behaviour. This is typically when a toddler begins to struggle between their reliance on their parents and their desire for independence. Children usually develop better impulse control between the ages of three and four. It is common for parents with children between the ages of zero and three to sometimes question whether their child is “normal or not”.

Here are five examples of “normal” toddlers behaviours and how to identify when it has become a concern.

1. Aggression- When a child spontaneously behaves aggressively such as kicking a stranger, this is likely to be a typical lack of impulse control. A toddler may not have the cognitive maturity to understand how their actions may impact others. We can teach them that kicking hurts, however, we may need to tell them a few times. Follow up with consequences such as cutting short play time because your child is biting may help teach responsibility for their behaviour. Teach alternatives and reward good behaviour. With consistency, the aggression should subside. However, if your child is regularly and excessively aggressive with other children or themselves, for example getting into physical fights with other children or biting themselves it may be time to seek professional assistance.

  1. Destructiveness – When a child goes through a destructive phase, they may rip up books and break toys. As a toddler becomes more mobile, their desire for independence and to test boundaries grows. It is important to be firm and say “no” and use immediate redirection to demonstrate to your child that what they are doing is unacceptable. If your child continues to destroy things excessively over several months, it may be time to seek professional help.
  2. Tantrums – Tantrums are a common part of early childhood. The child is learning to express strong emotions that can be overwhelming. Try to remain calm, cool and collected. Tantrums can become a behavioral concern if they are prolonged, aggressive, self injurious, frequent and often require external help.
  3. Defiance- Sometimes children will go through a phase of defiance where they say “NO” to almost anything from getting dressed to eating. It is best to avoid power struggles where possible and offer choices. This helps them feel as if they have some control and encourages cooperation. If your child is being defiant about everything, throughout the entire day from breakfast to bedtime, it may be time to seek professional assistance.
  4. Absconding – When a toddler runs away from a parent, they are not doing so to be bad on purpose and defy you, they are embracing their new sense of independence with legs that can run. It is important to stay close to them, show them where they can run and try to keep them engaged and entertained. Explain your expectations and encourage them when they do well. This may become a problem is your child is regularly absconding as a result of meltdowns.

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