Parenting a toddler isn’t a task for the faint-hearted. When they are not embarrassing you in public with their filter-free mouths (“look mummy, the fat man is eating a big pizza!”), they are giving you a massive headache with their noisy ― and often dangerous ― antics. Take your eyes off your little fella for a split second and she’s ready to leap off the dining table!
Then there are those precious few moments when they are as quiet as church mice and you’re just about to rest your eyes when… Wait a min… Why are they so quiet? What are they up to!? Did #1 lock #2 in the storeroom again?
Yes, toddlerhood can be a tumultuous time, but it’s also a time when your young ’un is learning more about the world and himself. Take a closer look at why she’s behaving the way she does and you’ll realise it’s actually all part of a healthy development cycle. The next time junior is driving you up the wall with any of these antics, console yourself because you know that it’s all for the greater good!
ANNOYING HABIT #1: Playing with food
You’ve slaved to prepare a well-balanced, scrumptious meal, only to have your tot refuse it, turn it into modern art or use it to initiate a food fight with her siblings. How frustrating!
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR JUNIOR It’s a learning process. When your tyke is squishing peas in between her chubby fingers, smearing gravy on her face or licking the bowl of fruit purée with her tongue (and nose!), she is experimenting with texture, smell and, of course, taste. When she drops or throws food, she is learning more about gravity. In fact, one study even concluded that toddlers who played with food learnt the words associated with those foods faster.
HOW TO REMAIN SANE Place a huge, washable plastic mat below junior’s high chair, so she can make all the mess she wants. All you have to do is carry the mat to the bathroom and hose it down. If you’re dining out, opt for alfresco seating, so that you don’t keep apologising to the wait staff for the mess. And carry lots of wet wipes at all times!
ANNOYING HABIT #2: Making a mess
If she could, your tyke would make a mess every hour of every day. Splashing water in the sink or during a shower, finger painting, sand play, scribbling on the walls with crayons and jumping into puddles ― these are just a few of what ranks high in a toddler’s daily to-do list. It’s what drives a parent crazy, too, especially if you’re a clean freak.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR JUNIOR It’s great sensory play that engages all of junior’s senses and encourages her to be creative and think out of box, since messy play follows no rules. Plus, getting her hands into everything also hones her motor skills.
HOW TO REMAIN SANE Resist the urge to constantly pick up after your peewee. Let her accumulate dirt until it’s time to shower. Come to terms with the fact that your once white couch is never going to reclaim its pristine beauty. Look the other way if possible. If you’re unable to do any of the above, encourage more outdoor play ― she can make as much of a mess as she wants!
When your tyke is squishing peas in between her chubby fingers…or licking the bowl of fruit purée with her tongue (and nose!), she is experimenting with texture, smell and, of course, taste.
ANNOYING HABIT #3: Reading the same books ― over and over again
“It’s the only part of my toddler’s bedtime routine that I don’t look forward to,” laments mum-of-one Rebecca Lim. “I would rather drill through my eyeballs than read The Gruffalo or Peppa Pig’s Class Trip one more time!” Admit it ― repetitive reading can be boring and you’ve probably tried to hide junior’s favourite book a few times, only to have her fish it out expertly from your secret hiding place (darn it!).
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR JUNIOR Reading boosts your early-learner’s vocabulary. The more times she reads (or is being read) the same text, the more familiar she gets with the words. Also, language is more than just words, it’s also about enuciation and being fluent ― things your tyke picks up when she hears you reading familiar text over and over again.
HOW TO REMAIN SANE Remind yourself of all these benefits the next time you want to rip out your hair. And maybe, include new books in the mix?
ANNOYING HABIT #4: Repetitive behaviour
While we’re still on the topic of repetition, how mind-numbing are those constant “why?” or “what’s this?” questions? Or wanting to do the same things over and over again? “I give myself a mental kick in the behind every time I start a new game with Simon, even if it’s something as simple as picking him up and throwing him in the air,” admits dad Terrence Chan. “He will want to do it again and again and again. I nearly threw my back out once!”
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR JUNIOR Little ones thrive on routine and repetition. It gives them a sense of security knowing what’s coming next. Doing the same thing over and over again also helps your kiddo to retain information and sharpens her memory skills.
HOW TO REMAIN SANE Give your tyke a heads up that you will only do it three more times. Then remind her that she has only two more to go and that the last one is coming up. This gives her enough time to prepare herself on how to handle the end of an activity or the number of times you’ll answer her questions. It’s a great way to prevent meltdowns.
Five more maddening tot behaviours that’ll benefit your little one, coming right up!
ANNOYING HABIT #5: Saying “No”
Junior seems to take a lot of pleasure in refusing to do anything you ask her to, doesn’t she? No, she won’t brush his teeth this morning. No, she will not swim once she reaches the beach (even though she loves swimming). And she most certainly will not eat the strawberries you’ve sliced for her.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR JUNIOR Since the day she was born, your sweetie has always thought the both of you were a single entity ― that’s why she’d freak out every time you left the room. However, as she starts to grow, she’s slowly figuring out that she is a separate person from you and she’s trying to gain some independence. Unfortunately, it’s this newly discovered sense of self that’s making your mini-me pepper every sentence with a loud, resounding “NO!”.
HOW TO REMAIN SANE Give her the space and freedom she needs to assert her independence. When she says no to something, ask her how she would like to do it. You can also give her two choices and ask her to pick one, so she feels like she has some control over her decision.
ANNOYING HABIT #6: Getting distracted easily
Even the smallest of tasks can go on for hours when you have a tot in tow. This is because little ones have such short attention spans, they get so easily distracted. A 10-minute walk to grandma’s can take almost an hour because junior wants to stop every few steps to pick up a stone, inspect every leaf and ant crawling past her, or wave to the dog sticking its wet nose out of the gate. They don’t make anything easy do they, these kids?
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR JUNIOR Every time your curious little Jemima pauses to scrutinise something or gets distracted by something while doing another thing, she’s learning about the world around him. She is also absorbing facts and committing it to memory, so she can use the info later.
HOW TO REMAIN SANE Change your perspective. Your dilly-dallying tyke is giving you a good excuse to literally stop rushing through life and take the time to smell the roses. Also, set aside buffer time if you’re running errands, so that you don’t get stressed if you find that you’re running late.
Pushing boundaries is an important part of being a toddler because she’s trying to figure what she can or can’t do in life.
ANNOYING HABIT #7: Throwing tantrums
They erupt out of nowhere, over the smallest things and unfortunately for you, usually somewhere very public. Toddler temper tantrums can indeed give parents untold trauma. Chan jokes, “I never knew I could ruin my 2-year-old’s day by giving him the blue water bottle instead of the yellow one.”
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR JUNIOR Your little one has big emotions and she doesn’t know how to deal with them most of the time as she’s not as emotionally developed as we are. So, it’s better that she releases these feelings, rather than let them fester.
HOW TO REMAIN SANE Don’t take it as personal attack on you. Since she needs an outlet for her emotions, be the calmer person. Hug her, stay next to her, or remove her from a public situation, so that people will stop staring and make things worse. Junior will respond to the energy you emit, so the calmer you are, the faster your little one will cool down, too.
ANNOYING HABIT #8: Pushing boundaries
Rules are meant to be broken ― just ask any toddler. You set a rule, junior proceeds to break it. You set another one and she does the same. You find yourself repeating over and over again that she is not supposed to throw the water from her cup onto the floor or sneak into your room to play with your earrings. Every day just feels like a never-ending battle.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR JUNIOR It may be hard to appreciate, but your young ’un isn’t trying to drive you crazy on purpose. Pushing boundaries is an important part of being a toddler because she’s trying to figure what she can or can’t do in life ― in other words, what’s socially acceptable and what’s not. Once she fully understands these rules, she will be able to better apply them in life later.
HOW TO REMAIN SANE Continue to set rules and be consistent. If you allow junior to pour water all over the floor in the name of messy play once and scold her the next time she does it, you will confuse her. So, start as you mean to go on.
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