Toddler Behavior Problems

image001Most people have tried to encourage a toddler’s good behavior with rewards only to realize that the toddler eventually loses interest in the rewards. Maybe you are the type that uses “time out” as punishment for a child’s bad behavior, but the child does not seem to be bothered by it and keeps doing the wrong thing time and again. In such a situation, you need to start figuring out the root of these toddler behavior problems. 

What Are Toddler Behavior Problems?

1. Aggression, Biting and Hitting

Aggression in a toddler is normal as it is part of his/her development. It comes about as a result of the fierce desire to be independent coupled with an undeveloped control of impulse among other reasons. These normally cause the child to get physical. However, you should let the toddler know that it is wrong to bite, hit or get aggressive and show them more civilized ways of expressing emotions.

2. Interrupting

A toddler’s short-term memory is not fully developed and that is why they will say things the moment they think of it before they forget. Therefore, your toddler does not understand the perception of interrupting others when they are in a conversation. She/He also does not understand that there are other people who might also want your attention. When a child interrupts you every time your attention is elsewhere, you may be exasperating. However, you need to realize that she/he is not doing so intentionally.

3. Lying

When a child is about three or four years old, she/he is not able to completely tell the difference between fantasy and reality. This means that your child is still not able to understand the concept of telling the truth and lies.

4. Pulling Hair

This is one of the ways toddlers express themselves. There are several explanations as to why a child would pull hair and the most likely one is that she/he has discovered that by pulling hair, she/he gets a reaction and/or attention from you.

5. Running Away

Most toddlers like to dart away the second they have been put down on the ground and have been left alone. By the time you are catching him/her, it’s quite clear that she/he does not want to be put in the stroller or be carried. Instead, she/he wants to walk on his/her own. Understand that running away is not one of the toddler behavior problems because he/she simply has that sense of freedom coupled with legs that can run.

6. Screaming

A toddler will scream not because she/he wants to get annoying, but because she/he has that joie de vivre. She/he realizes that she/he has a voice and is experimenting and exploring with it. You may also realize that she/he lets lose when in banks or supermarkets. It is simply because she/he enjoys the echoing. Screaming is also another way of getting your attention.

7. Tattling

A child tattles for the same reasons as an adult–to revenge, get attention, exert power or manipulate. While it is more common in older children, some toddlers tattle especially when they are surrounded by older kids.

8. Teasing

Even though teasing does happen even in toddler years, the good news is that it is never done with malicious intent. Teasing is sometimes a toddler’s way of testing the boundary limits his/her parents have. For example, a child will eat sugar while looking at you in the eye just to see your reaction.

9. Tantrums

A toddler’s tantrums are at times fierce and sudden. One minute they are happy and the next they’re whining and whimpering. Tantrums are prone in children between one and three years old. There is likelihood that your toddler is just experiencing a meltdown from frustration.

10. Throwing Things

Throwing things is one of the toddler behavior problems that upset most parents. Many children between the ages of 18 months to three years like throwing things as an enjoyable skill.

11. Whining

Your toddler relies on you for everything. To get what he/she needs, he/she has to get your attention. A toddler whines when she/he feels powerless and is looking for attention.

Toddlers’ Development Spectrum

  • 18 months: curious, clueless, mobile, impulsive and fearless.
  • 2 years: uses motor skills to climb, throw, jump and run.
  • 3 years: The child has endless energy and is vocal. He/She can use language to argue a point, making noise as he/she plays.

Why Do Toddler Behavior Problems Occur?

1. They Are Looking for Power

In this case, the child may have defiant strong “No” responses to requests you make. They have the “you cannot force me” type of reaction. This is because as babies they do whatever they want and this makes them feel powerful.

2. They Are Looking for Attention

In this case, the child is always asking you to look at what they are doing, more so when something else has your attention.

3. They Are Looking for Control

In this case, the toddler always demands to get whatever they want at that moment. The child might also not stop whatever they are doing just because you are asking. They are normally looking for control and such a child should be allowed to make more decisions concerning some aspects of their life.

4. They Have Needs Not Been Met

In this case, a child might be difficult or cranky because they have needs that have not been met. Needs include hunger, comfort, thirst, and boredom.

How Can You Stop Toddler Behavior Problems?

Behavior problems

How to stop it

Aggression, biting and hitting

Follow up using logical consequences, keep cool, discipline consistently, teach alternatives to the reactions, reward the toddlers’ good behavior, limit the child’s TV time, give the child physical outlets for all his/her energy and make sure that you immediately respond by stopping him/her whenever your toddler gets aggressive.


Meet up with people in a place your child can play, teach your child about interruption and why it’s wrong, schedule your calls to when your child is sleeping, and try to model your child’s behavior by setting a good example with your behavior.


Encourage telling the truth, phrase your comments in a way that they do not accuse your child of lying and instead, they should invite confession. Do not burden your child with a lot of expectations and build trust between you and your toddler.

Pulling hair

Show him/her that pulling hair will not give what she/he wants. Interrupt that behavior by slowly detangling the hair before the pulling starts. When you’ve detangled the hair, talk with your child and teach him/her how he/she should solve problems with peaceful alternatives. Never pull your child’s hair to teach him/her a lesson.

Running away

Stay close to the toddler in an open space. Show him/her safe places to run around. Entertain and engage him/her when doing some of your chores and make sure that you move at his/her pace. Explain to your toddler the behavior you expect from him/her and encourage his/her good behavior. Also, teach him/her about safety using songs and stories.


Run your errands when she/he is full and rested. Try to avoid hallways and big, empty spaces when you are with her. Teach her/him on using a low voice and you can even make a game out of it. Acknowledge her/his feelings if the screaming is for attention and always keep her/him occupied when in banks and quiet places.


Confirm the stories before you react and show her/him how she/he can cope with such information before tattling. Separate children from older kids and do not reward the tattling toddler by punishing the child who’s been tattled on.


When your toddler is teased, tell him/her to assume that he/she is in a bubble and all the mean words keep bouncing off. Also, teach your toddler to agree with the teaser because that is the easiest way to end teasing. You can also talk to the teacher if the teasing is too much.


Keep yourself cool and remember that you are the “bigger man” in the situation. Sparingly use “time-out” and talk it over later. Let your toddler know that you love him/her and try to avoid situations that might induce tantrums.

Throwing things

Show the toddler the things that are safe to throw and those that are not. Keep the unsafe things away from her/his reach and if the throwing is aggressive, discourage it. When the toddler is in the stroller, fasten the toys to her/his seat and when it is time to clear up the toys, do it together. Sit close to her/him during meals.


Acknowledge that the child needs attention and show her/him better ways to get it. Avoid situations that may trigger whining and respond consistently when they occur. When the whining has gone to overdrive, try not to react and instead, try diverting the toddler’s attention.

How to Improve Toddlers’ Behavior?

1. Show Your Love to Your Toddler

Give your toddler positive attention and ensure that your affection is greater than any punishment. Give your toddler kisses, hugs and frequent praise to motivate him/her.

2. Respect the Toddler’s Individuality

As the child grows older, she/he will show certain behavior and personality traits that are genetic. Respect and accept the child’s individuality and do not expect them to be like any other toddler.

3. Minimize the Rules

Do not overload the toddler with rules. Prioritize on those that have been geared towards safety and good behavior.

4. Enforce Consequences

You should know that there are times your toddler is going to break your rules. At such times, you should enforce the consequences of his/her behavior.

5. Set an Example

Children pick up a lot from their parents, so make sure that you are a good role model.

For more information on dealing with toddler behavioral problems, check out this video:

More Tips on Toddlers’ Behavior



Choose your battles

Know what is important to you and prioritize it. You shouldn’t be too strict with rules especially when they’re toddlers. Ease up on little annoying things and concentrate more on the ones that matter most.

Identify the triggers

When you identify the things that trigger behavioral problems in your toddler, you will be at a much better position to avoid them whenever you can.

Be consistent

Between the ages of two and three, children are often finding out how their behavior affects those around them. Therefore, you need to be consistent with your rules so that you will not confuse the child.

Keep it simple and short

When explaining the consequences of your toddler’s behavior, you need to keep it short and clear. When you over-talk, you will not be as effective.

Give time-out

If you have repeatedly reprimanded and redirected your child’s bad behavior with no effect, it is time to change the strategy and give a “time-out”. Once the time-out is through, calmly talk to the child and explain why she/he had to take a time-out.

Stay positive

Even if your child’s behavior frustrates you, you need to maintain a positive mind. It is normal to feel exasperated every now-and-then. If it gets too much, talk to your spouse, friend or pediatrician.