You may be wondering why all of a sudden your toddler is filling the toilet with books, painting their bodies with nail polish or decorating their younger sibling with permanent marker.
Your Toddler is Being, well, a Toddler
Your mischievous toddler isn’t being “bad” – this would imply that they understand that what they are doing is inherently wrong. They are simply reaching a developmental milestone that involves curiosity and exploration. At this point toddlers are, by nature, impulsive and tend to test limits (all of them).
Toddlers are like little scientists – they want to experience and interact with the world. They do this by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing and manipulating the properties of objects around them. Somewhere among these curious tendencies is a new-found sense of independence. They are beginning to do things for themselves and with that comes the excitement of freedom. At this point of development, what we call “mischief,” your child considers free-range exploration of everything they can get their hands on.
They are Learning
Does that mean you should allow your child run amok in the spirit of knowledge and exploration? Certainly not. As a parent it is your responsibility to nourish their desire for learning while keeping them safe and healthy. If you have a free-spirited, mischievous toddler, try these tips to manage their behavior (and maintain your sanity):
- Safety First: The most important thing to do when you have a busy toddler exploring their environment is to make sure anything that could be potentially harmful is properly covered, locked up and non-accessible.
- Reinforce Good Behavior: One key to decreasing an unwanted behavior and increasing a desired one is to draw attention to your child when they do something you want them to do. If your child asks to open a bottle of paint, praise them for asking permission and paint with them. If they tell you about a mess they made while experimenting with baby powder in the bathroom, let them know you appreciate them telling you and have them help you clean up the mess. Being firm with your toddlers and punishing them are two completely different things. It’s important to remember a balance so that your child feels safe and free to express themselves in a safe and appropriate manner.
- Join Their Explorations: Your first instinct when your little one disappears into another room and settles into “quietude” is likely to get stuff done. However, this tends to be when your child reappears as a walking masterpiece of toothpaste hair and lipstick eyebrows. As much as you would love to finish that sink of dishes, join your child and see what they are up to – not to stop them from their escapades, but to help them fulfill their curiosities. Show them how you use toothpaste and lipstick. Demonstrate the proper use of the toilet. Let them paint your nails instead of their face. You’ll be satisfying their curiosity, teaching them something and avoiding a huge mess.
Just like all stages of your child’s development, this too will pass. As exhausting as it may seem, your child will eventually begin to discover new ways to gain knowledge and attention that does not involve eating from the cat’s dish or ripping off their clothes in the grocery store. Just be patient and know that you’re doing a great job!
What’s the most mischievous thing you have caught your child doing? Let us know on our Facebook (/peacefulparentsusa), follow us on Instagram (@peacefulparentsusa) and don’t forget to Tweet us (@parents_usa).