They are not called the terrible twos for nothing. Toddlers seem to be bent in pushing their parents over the edge at this time in their lives, which perhaps explains why some parents do lose not only sleep but also patience at this crucial juncture in their toddlers’ development. Would it perhaps make the journey a lot more bearable if we understand why they do things the way they do? Here are four toddler habits that are part of the child’s development, which parents need to work around.

Playing with food

Many parents are understandably frustrated when it comes to preparing delicious and nutritious meals only for these to end up smeared on the child’s face or scattered all over the floor. Before discounting the child as unappreciative, understand that for them, mealtime is another adventure in discovering new tastes, smells and textures offered by food. This behavior is shared by early scientists who sniffed and even tasted chemicals that were new to them back then, so if we can’t fault adults for their curiosity, why should we fault children?

Creating a mess

This is why it is very important to toddler-proof your house. Toddlers not only make mess on the table, but apparently, everywhere.  If you are the type who can't stand seeing the sight of scattered toys, it is important to at least give the child a room of his or her own where anything goes. Think of it as unstructured play. Creating a mess is actually just a non-fancy way of referring to all activities that satisfy the child’s curiosity, which in adulthood lead to creativity, resourcefulness and critical thinking. In fact, letting the child manipulate his physical environment not only helps to develop and strengthen his motor skills, it also engages all of his senses, which is crucial in building neural pathways that are later on indispensable to his cognitive development. 

Saying ‘no’

Toddlers apparently seem to have a lot of vitamin N in them. If there’s any toddler behavior that will make you grit your teeth in frustration, this is it. The reasoning behind this behavior, which is sometimes accompanied by tantrums, is that children start with identifying with their parents. At this age, they are just beginning to realize that, in fact, they are not one and the same with their parents. As they come to see more and more that they are separable, they will exercise this separateness. By not following mom’s every request or dad’s instruction, they are in fact beginning to assert that sense of self.

Asking questions 

For parents who barely have the time to ask these questions themselves, nothing can be as annoying as an insistent toddler wanting to know why the sky is blue, why their favorite cartoon character died, or why, worse, you can't come home early to play with them. ‘Peeling the onion' until they get to its core may make you cry with frustration, but answering them as accurately as you can puts them on the road to a curious and critical thinking mindset. If you don't know the answer, don't just say so. In this age of information at the fingertips, it's easy to find out the answer together, and give the lead to your child where to find that information for herself should she want to quench her thirst for knowledge.

It would be a welcome relief if toddlers behave in a way that is less stressful to the adult. But if your child is not ‘misbehaving,’ that may be a signal that he or she is not developing normally. Better live your life around these indicators of normal development and do all you can to make sure your children are on the right track than face the consequence of stunted emotional and cognitive growth.