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  • Can't Understand Toddler Behavior? Here's a Guide to Decode What They Mean!

    Puzzled by your little one? This might help!
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
Can't Understand Toddler Behavior? Here's a Guide to Decode What They Mean!
PHOTO BY @maroke/iStock
  • When my son was just over a year old, he would say "dey-di" for "milk, please," and I knew that it was different from "de-di," which summons his Dad. Of course, only I understood him. People would ask, "Ano daw?" when they couldn't follow what my son was saying, and I always found it funny how amazed they were at how I could interpret a two-syllable babble into its full sentence equivalent.

    It's challenging to decode toddlers because of their limited vocabulary, so parents often have to rely on their tone of voice (or how angry they seem) or what the word sounded like to understand what is being said. But before your toddler even gets frustrated at your inability to get what he means, a certain look or action might be able to clue you in on what is going on. Hopefully, this guide will be helpful.

    What your toddler's actions mean

    His behavior: He won't look you in the eye.

    What it likely means: He's embarrassed. 

    Your toddler was probably being his naughty self and got reprimanded for a misdeed. If he refuses to meet your gaze, it's likely because he understands you are angry, and that he feels bad about what he did.

    Psychologist Kristin Lagattuta, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, says, "When a young child refuses to look at you, it means she realizes that her actions may have disappointed you."

    What you can do: Reinforce the idea that what he did is wrong, and show him how he can make right the situation.

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    His behavior: He brings ALL his favorite stuffed toys to bed.

    What it likely means: He's scared.

    And not just his stuffed toys: his blanket that he doesn't want to be washed, his toy soldier, and maybe lots and lots of pillows. There was probably something that scared him, and he needs to protect himself from it. 

    "Keeping familiar objects nearby makes your child feel secure as he drifts off to sleep or wakes up in the middle of the night," explains Kerstin Potter, director of the early childhood education program at Harcum College, Pennsylvania. 

    What you can do: Acknowledge his fears, and let him keep the stuffed toys, but also show him that there is nothing to be scared of. 

    His behavior: He hides behind an object or his clothes when in the presence of someone he doesn't know.

    What it likely means: He's anxious or shy.

    Meeting a new person sometimes can be awkward as an adult, and even more so when you're a child — thus he needs to cover up himself because the other person's presence possibly makes him feel vulnerable. 

    "Your child is not yet able to work through his nervousness, so he negotiates the situation in a purely sensory and physical way," says Lisa Nalven, M.D., a developmental pediatrician at the Valley Center for Child Development, New Jersey. 

    What you can do: Give your child time to get used to this new person and warm up to him on his own. When you feel that he's more open to being friendlier, gently ask him to say a quick hello to help him realize it's okay to meet new people. 

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    His behavior: He hides in the corner while pooping in his diaper.

    What it likely means: He needs privacy.

    "Adults do 'it' in the bathroom, so maybe I should also be by myself" is probably what your child is thinking as he lets out a big one in his diaper. He understands that pooping is something that is done in private, and he is mimicking you, in a way.

    What you can do: Take advantage of the situation and lead him to the bathroom if he wants to "hide." That can be the beginning of a lesson on potty training, saying things like, you can do what you need to do in the privacy of the bathroom.

    His behavior: He throws a tantrum.

    What it likely means: He doesn't feel good.

    It could be a range of different things, like being tired, or sleepy, or hungry, but one thing is clear: he doesn't like how he feels. 

    What you can do: Try to figure out what it is that is causing his discomfort, and address it accordingly.  

    His behavior: He doesn't like it when he sees you with other kids

    What it likely means: He wants your attention

    Young children naturally go through the "mine" stage starting from the terrible twos. It only means he is growing up and becoming his own person.

    "At this stage, his self-image is tied to the things that are most valuable to him, and Mom is right up there," explains Dr. Lagattuta. 

    What you can do: Assure him of your love by hugging him and telling him that no matter what, he will always have you. 

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