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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.

Unlocking the Mysteries of Toddler Behavior continued...

"She sticks her face in it like she's bobbing for apples and then sticks her tongue out and tries to drink like the dog," she says. "The family tried a lot of tactics, including putting up barricades and eventually taking Charlie's food and water from him during the day."

Karp says that toddlers are little scientists, wanting to try everything out firsthand. "They want to interact," he says. "They want to touch, feel, roll, taste, smell, see, and experiment with the properties of objects. That's how they are observing and learning about the world."

Briggs refutes the bad reputation of "the terrible twos." "Your toddler is caught in the middle" she says, "between this incredibly exciting and exhilarating feeling of independence -- 'I can walk, I can talk, I can feed myself, I can dress myself, the world is mine' -- and on the other side, just a year away from not having been able to do any of those things. There's that tension that the child is feeling between thinking they can be on their own and feeling like Mommy's little baby."

A job of parenting is to civilize your child, Karp says, "so by the time they get to be 4, they say 'please' and 'thank you,' wait in line, share their toys, and have impulse control. But they don't start out that way."

When you think your kid is acting like a little caveman, bear in mind these simple strategies for handling toddler behavior:

Tone it down. Karp says that in situations that are "yellow light" behaviors, you need to be clear but empathetic. For example, you can say: "Yes, you are taking off your clothes, but no, sweetheart, we don't take off our clothes at church." Or if your child is using a bad word, try a stern voice: "Say it again and we have to go home."

Find a solution that works for you. Roberts admits that she resorted to duct taping Dylan's diaper to keep him from ripping it off. "I'm not one of your finicky, perfect moms," she says. "I'd rather be sane than perfect." 

Reinforce what you like. "Catch your child being good," Karp says. "Encourage them when they are doing good things. Too often, when your child is being quiet in the other room, we take that as an opportunity to finish all the things we need to do. Go and spend time with them."

Reviewed on October 17, 2013

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