How to Understand what a Toddler says or does

A toddler is an interesting creature. Sometime after his first birthday, he will realize that he is an independent person who can cause things to happen. He can do this several ways, but mostly it is through behavior that a toddler will create an effect. The name for this change is ego, and this is what a toddler develops. He has been totally dependent on you for all of his short life, and now he is realizing that he has some control over what happens.

This new sense of self is thrilling for a little person. If he screams, someone will come running. If he drops a spoon, someone will pick it up. If he dances, someone will laugh. The examples are endless, but the important thing is that a toddler is learning that he is separate from his parents and he can do his own thing. Of course he is going to test it out by doing whatever he can think of to get a reaction.

But what is a natural development in the life cycle can be frustrating for parents, especially when the educational cause and effect is disruptive. It is important to remember that a toddler learns through repetition, so it will take him several times hearing “No,” before he realizes what it means. This applies to all the behavior though. He might throw a cup of water ten or more times before he realizes that it will be empty, or pinch his fingers in a doorway repeatedly until he learns it will always hurt. Looking at the toddler’s perspective, it is much easier to understand why he may do those baffling things.

Toddlers are focused on cause and effect. It is important to keep a toddler safe though, as he doesn’t realize what is dangerous. Although adults know that touching a hot stove will burn us, a toddler doesn’t. It is easy to forget that what is now second nature was learned at one point. This is that point for your toddler. To avoid any accidents or injuries, it is vital to baby proof and discourage your toddler from going to places where he could get hurt.

Toddlers are naturally curious about everything, and now they are more mobile than they were a few short months ago. This combined with the lack of concern over getting hurt is a dangerous combination. Electrical outlets have little holes that look perfect for little fingers, so cover them. Cords are entertaining to pull, so put them out of reach. A toddler will likely get into everything he can reach. Ensure that many safe toys are in his reach and every potential danger is out of it.

Talking is another skill that children are beginning to acquire at this age. Speech is a powerful thing and toddlers will make the most of it. A toddler is also self-aware enough to know this is new skill. That’s why a toddler will sit in his high chair and happily sing the same word over and over. He is practicing his new vocabulary, and every time he makes the right sound he is ecstatic all over again. The negative effect of this early language development is that a toddler will start to have tantrums. Screaming is a powerful way to get a reaction from most parents, especially in public. The more a parent reacts though, the more a toddler will scream to get what he wants, even if it is only attention. The best thing a parent can do in this case is to ignore the behavior, but not the child. This means don’t react to the screaming, but intervene if a child is going to get hurt. When a toddler learns that having a tantrum will not affect his situation, he will be more likely to come up with other ways to get results, like talking.

Repetition is the way toddlers learn, but repetition also delights a toddler. The same story can be read up to fifty times in one day and still be just as exciting. Parents who are falling asleep at the idea of reading it again would benefit from knowing this helps memory, coordination, and language development. Singing the same song, or pressing the same button are just as beneficial. Just because a parent is bored doesn’t mean a toddler is not gaining useful meaning from an activity.

If perspective is hard to maintain at times, think about how a toddler learns to walk. He gets up and falls several times before he is able to go anywhere. This is how every new skill is attained. So when a toddler’s behavior is frustrating, remember that the only way to learn the rules is to hear “no” again and again. By misbehaving now he is paving the way to good behavior when he is older. And when that musical toy is playing over and over (and over), he is learning that he can entertain himself. And keep in mind too that stubborn behavior is the best way to figure things out.