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Odd Toddler Behaviours

Posted on October 14 2016

Toddlers can be demanding and unrelenting. And if you have one, you know they’re also kind of strange.

“The vast majority of strange toddler behaviours are short-lived phases,” says Heather Wittenberg, Child psychologist and author of Let’s Get This Potty Started! The BabyShrink’s Guide to Potty Training Your Toddler.

The early years of toddlerhood is the period when your child is learning and exploring new possibilities and limits of their own. They are notorious at times and have outbursts of emotions like the ‘terrible twos’, ‘no its mine’ and ‘I will do it myself ‘. These years involve lots of different developments  whether it is mastering emotions, self control, learning manners, learning language and physically being able to do certain skills like balance, hopping, running or climbing. These behaviours are not to be considered to be odd or weird, rather this is the age where your child needs to have such behaviours in his routine. They love knowing what to expect, how to go about things, keep observing new things in the environment and also how to feel safe and secure. At such times all you need to do as a parent is give them the freedom to try and do things independently. Also to gain mastery on what they are learning, they need time to practice it again and again.

Here is a list of some most common toddler behaviours which we sometimes find odd or strange:

Hair pulling/twisting before sleep

Some toddlers yank on or twist their own hair (or their parents’ hair) as a way to soothe and calm themselves before sleep.
If your child is doing this more often, then suggest them to tug and twist a toy's hair, instead, or perhaps tug on and twist a blanket.

Facial, body, or vocal tics

Toddlers may grimace, shrug their shoulders, twitch, make repetitive noises, etc. as they wind down for sleep.

When your toddler starts doing the repetitive behaviour, be sure to take the time to offer plenty of cuddling and kisses. If your toddler is old enough to talk with you, you may also want to try asking how is he feeling, and if anything’s wrong. You could say something like, “I see you pulling on your ears – are you feeling worried? Did anything happen today that made you feel bad?”

Strange eating habits

Toddlers are known for being ‘fussy eaters’ and turning their noses up at what was literally their favourite food yesterday. This is really about testing the boundaries as they now can say ‘no’ and see what happens. Sometimes it is to do with sensory needs. Do not battle this or take up the battle, side step it and calmly say, ‘this is lunch’ and offer no second or third options. If your toddler is hungry they will eat, if they do not eat, they are not really hungry.

Hitting Themselves

You may notice your toddler hitting himself in the head or even banging their head against something. This may look terrifying, but it’s not always as harmful as it appears.

However, it is found that on the extreme end of the scale, hitting oneself can also be a sign of autism or seizure activity. It can also be related to pain from an ear infection or frustration from a lack of ability to verbally communicate. The best thing to do at this time would be to make notes when your child indulges in self-harm and pen down the potential triggers. A visit to the pediatrician is a must if the behavior becomes a concern.

Suddenly Screaming 

There comes a time when your toddler realizes that they can get attention but suddenly screaming out of the blue. This maybe at the most unexpected times, leave you wondering what went wrong all of a sudden.

However, experts say it is a normal part of development and it’s really nothing to worry about (although your nerves may tell you differently).

Experts also suggest that screaming is not a behavior to be punished, but rather a normal way of expression for a baby. This can increase if you try to make them quiet each time he or she does it. It could be your child simply experimenting with sound, or expressing some kind of frustration. Limiting how you react to it could limit how often your toddler feels the urge to scream.

 Hands in the pants

Self-fondling is another habit that isn’t considered a problem unless your child chooses to do it over playing with the kid next door or eating ice cream. And give him interesting things to do to keep him from being bored. Self- fondling is a phase where your child is exploring their genitals and it passes with time. Wittenberg says not to say no to it but to give guidelines: “You can do this alone in your room, but you can’t do it in the store or at school.”

 On the other hand, in an extreme situation, it maybe a urine infection which would require serious attention and one must visit the pediatrician.

Imaginary and stuffed friends

When the world seems confusing and difficult to understand, your toddler will suddenly seem obsessed with soft toys or spending time with their imaginary friends. From eating, to playing and sleeping , all their activities would revolve around them. This is a normal reaction.

 “A world of the child’s making is much more comfortable,” Wittenberg says. When you embrace your child’s imaginary world, you honor her creativity. When a furry friend gets lost or needs to be washed or sewn, it might be rough, but it’s an opportunity to show her how she can cope without her usual comforts.

Some toddlers insist on wearing a cape all day or want to be naked at all times. Wacky phases are a normal part of being a kid and figuring out his place in the world. As with other weird behaviours, so long as it doesn’t interfere with normal activities, it’s fine. You may have to explain that it’s a thing he can do at some times but not at others. Tolerate it, but be sure you record it too. These are some great memories to show you child when they grow up !!

Happy Parenting !

About The Expert

Namrata Jain is our Consulting Psychologist at Brainsmith. She has a Masters in Psychology from Mumbai University and has worked with children and adults to help them achieve a better state of mind by encouraging healthy mental and behavioural growth.