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The (Mis)Behaviors of Toddlers
That's Using Your Mind
What Happened to My Angel?
Toddlers are terrifying beings. Sure, they're small and look adorable. They have a look of complete innocence. However, let's be honest here, sometimes you wonder just how innocent that toddler is when they give you the look of the devil, while saying "uh oh" and flinging poop from their diaper. Or maybe that's just my toddler. We would hope that these behaviors are not exclusive to what people try to tell us is our bundle of adorable joy we brought home from the hospital all those months ago. We even try to convince ourselves that our child was so sweet forever ago, but get discouraged when we realize it has only been a few months since they woke up with willful personalities and full of constant mischief. This may or may not console you, but that cute little ball of mischief is in fact your little bundle of joy growing up just as he should, poop flinging and all.
This terrifying stage brings all sorts of worries for parents, both veteran and newbies. Parents who say, "they're perfect angels until they become teens" have apparently forgotten the age from when they start walking until they are about 3. Toddlers are unpredictable, and every toddler is different and brings their own challenges. My first son, as ever so angelic that he was, had his moments that made me sit and wonder what happened to my little angel. He mastered finger painting by 2, however the medium he chose came from his diaper and his material of choice was the wall. Aside from that, we walked away from his toddler years unscathed. My second precious angel was ahead of the game, walking at 8 months and climbing in, out and over everything not long after. I was told he had the devil in him, and sure enough that might not be too far from the truth. He has a great disposition, for the most part until a stranger or my brother comes near him. He's generally full of smiles and usually laughing.
However, you can always tell when trouble is about to hit. His smile face gets and evil look about him, his laugh turns from joy to menace. Then, he says "uh oh". "Uh oh" to my lovely little toddler does not mean that something has happened. No, it means "something is about to happen and I'm the one about to do it". As a result, he never leaves my side. I follow him like a hunter stalking prey, always ready to pounce when he climbs and then tries to jump off of something. I've even considered super gluing his diaper on. And these are the least of my problems, though I do get quite a work out from chasing him around all day.
The toddler is an unpredictable being trying to find his place in this confusing world. He's learning boundaries and acceptable behaviors. He doesn't know that playing with his favorite toy in public is embarrassing for others. He just knows there's something in his diaper and it's apparently hilarious. There are more serious behaviors that exist also, that may involve harming themselves or others. Our jobs as parents is figuring out how to get these worrisome or just embarrassing behaviors to stop without breaking their will to learn and explore.
They Are, In Fact, Normal.
I tried to search the Internet for issues I am facing with my toddler that actually scares me. What I have found is that their isn't a whole lot of specific help for certain behaviors. And for that, I am here. My son's pediatrician is a great resource, as is everyone at the doctor's office. I'm here to tell you that it is normal, and share my son's scary habits and how I'm trying to discourage them.
- Hair pulling. No he was not really pulling my hair, but taking out chunks of his own hair. A Google search led me to articles about this being an early sign of OCD. My first instinct was to internally freak out at the idea that my precious child wasn't perfect. Luckily I had a well baby check up the next day. After talking to the doctor, she figured out that while most children tug at ears while teething, my son pulled out his hair in response to the teething pain. Sure enough, I could tell a new tooth was coming in because he reverted back to this behavior every time.
- Self-harm. My son was a biter, though his preferred target for biting was himself. He also bangs his head against everything on purpose, poked himself in the eye, makes himself vomit then laughs, and the most alarming is him choking himself. I felt helpless. The doctor said that I had to pretend that he was hurting someone else and discipline him as such. She said to say "no" sternly and often because you would need to say it often. Be prepared, often means every few minutes every day until they suddenly learn. Except my child had just learn to shake his head disapprovingly and point instead of stopping. Then I opted for the "stop the behavior and distract" approach while saying "no". This has worked a lot better and he doesn't do these behaviors as often.
- The infamous tantrum. Toddlers are known for this. In fact, it might just be their specialty. My son's pediatrician suggested I place him in the playpen to stop his tantrums. I then pointed out that he has long mastered climbing out of the playpen and this wasn't an option for me. She suggested probably the easiest solution for this: ignore them and let the tantrum work itself out because they want your attention and it will only feed it and make matters worse. And you know what? It works. His tantrums have dramatically been reduced. It was the simple advice that worked the best.
You'll survive these times. If you can survive toddlerhood, I'm confident the teens will be a cake walk. Any time your teen gives you trouble, take comfort that this trouble doesn't lead you to cleaning poop off of everything.