Toddlers are weird. Yea, I said it. You’ll have a hard time finding a mom who hasn’t questioned their behavior at some point and in some capacity. Parents are usually prepared for tantrums, crying, hitting, and even biting. But sometimes, our toddlers throw us for a loop when they do something outrageous that we’re not prepared for. So, when you find your toddler acting in a way that seems highly unsocial, bizarre, or harmful, we can worry about why it’s happening and whether we need to seek advice or be concerned. Often, the behaviors aren’t as destructive as we think. Here are a few common worrisome toddler behaviors that are actually totally normal.
Some weird toddler behaviors that make us nervous wrecks but relax, mama; these odd things are normal:
Hair twirling or pulling:
This behavior can be alarming or frustrating if they’re tangling their hair. But, it’s simply a way of self-soothing. It seems quite an unusual way of soothing, but it is normal (as is nail-biting and picking). So, redirect this when you see it, give them something else to do with their hands, and they should eventually grow out of it.
Rocking back and forth:
Another typical self-soothing technique. Rocking back and forth is often seen in kids who are not yet verbal and can’t express their feelings. They may be feeling frustrated or angry, or upset. A mother’s instinct is to our babies, so it makes sense that it’s something they do for themselves too.
The behavior only becomes worrisome if they appear to be in a trance-like state. In which case, you may want to contact your family doctor.
Totally normal! Toddlers often have a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy, and lying is a blurry way of providing an answer to something that they wished happened or might happen or could have possibly have happened- it’s a blurry line for them and nothing to worry about. So don’t discipline for these lies; just encourage honesty. As life gets more precise, the lies will become less.
Imaginary friends are a healthy part of child development. It was believed that toddlers having an imaginary friend was a sign of mental health issues, but studies have completely disproven this archaic way of thinking.
“Imaginary friends are now considered a natural part of childhood for many children, and have been associated with a range of positive developmental outcomes.”
This one can be very scary for parents because it’s so hard to understand and watch your child do something that appears to be harmful. But rest assured, head banging is common and normal. It’s more common in boys than girls and usually doesn’t happen after 4. It’s self-soothing, tension-releasing, and they quickly learn that it gets your attention.
While it can be alarming, you probably have very little to worry about as long as your little one is happy and healthy.
Playing with poop:
As horrifying and gross as this can be, playing with poop is a normal toddler behavior. It’s simple sensory and exploratory, and curiosity. Poops can be fascinating to a little one; look what their body just did!
It could be a sign they’re ready to potty train. The best way to deal with it is never over-react (although that can be hard, try your best to keep your cool). Any behavior that gets a great deal of attention can use later for attention-seeking. And we don’t need that poopy situation. Make sure their hands are properly washed and talk calmly about how poop must stay in their diaper.
Always being naked:
Totally normal (can you blame them?). It feels nice; they can have some independence and assert themselves. Plus, clothes can be uncomfortable. So, letting them go nakies at home is fine (choose your battles, right!). But, speak to them about the importance of clothing outside the house and that we keep our bodies private.
Touching their peers or siblings’ genitals:
Another normal development stage touching themselves or siblings’ genitals is normal. They’re simply curious about bodies and haven’t been told the importance of privacy yet. It’s important to explain that we don’t touch anyone else’s private parts and only touch our own in private. Generally, kids quickly pick up on this, and the behavior is easy to redirect.
Not answering when you speak to them:
This can be super frustrating. And if you’re certain your child doesn’t have any hearing issues, this is normal. Often this is their way of exerting power. Toddlers don’t have a lot of control over their life or environment. Not listening might be their way of taking some of that power back, and again, they’re looking for your reaction. Try giving your toddler small choices (red cup or blue cup) and making them feel like they’re in charge of their own lives.
Any time the behaviors appear to be too much, you’re unable to redirect or accompany sudden mood changes or anxiety, reach out to your family doctor or mental health professional.