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The Crazy Things That Toddlers Do

WebMD unlocks the mysteries of toddler behavior, from running around naked to snacking on Fido's food.
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Toddler Behavior: Seeing the Kid's Point of View

"Children don't have the same bodily shame that we do about things like picking their nose and looking down their pants," says Rahil Briggs, an infant-toddler psychologist at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York.

"There's no superego inside of them, saying, 'Don't pick your nose. That looks funny to outsiders,'" she says. "Instead, there is this enormously powerful sense of curiosity and exploration."

He Just Did What?

Allison Ellis, owner of Hopscotch Consulting in Seattle, admits that her son, Wilson, who is nearly 2, acts like a "dirty old man."

He pinches her nipples in public, slaps her bare bottom while she is getting dressed, and chases after his older sister and other toddler-age girls with an open mouth, followed by a licking attack.

"Right around my son's 18-month checkup, my pediatrician said, 'Be aware of willful behavior,'" she says. "At the time, I thought, 'Who, my son? He's such a sweet, docile kid.' And then, I'm not kidding, maybe a few days later my son started acting out a bit and testing limits."

Ellis uses timeouts to calm him down. "Most of the time I think he does it to get my attention," she says. "If someone else is around, I usually laugh and say, 'Wow, look at my crazy kid,' and they laugh, too."

Toddlers just love attention at this stage, Briggs says. "They don't actually care so much if it's adoration or funny looks or giggles. They'll take any kind of attention."

The key is the more you offer attention for positive behaviors, she says, the more you pre-empt that attention-seeking behavior.

Good Touch, Bad Touch

A hot topic of conversation for parents of toddlers is "sexploration" -- fondling or touching themselves as they become more aware of their bodies.

"The first thing for parents to know is that it's a normative phase of development," Briggs says. "As long as it's a moderate amount of exploration and touching, don't get worried at all."

She emphasizes that it's important to let your child know: "It's your private part, and if you want to touch it, you need to do it in your private time." Also, you should explain the difference between "good touch, bad touch" -- who can touch it and what are appropriate times, like during bath time or at the doctor's office.

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