Why Your Toddler isn’t Misbehaving (Understanding Age Appropriate Behavior)

I don’t view the repetitive testing behavior of a young child or toddler as “misbehavior”. If I don’t call it “Misbehaving” then what do I call it when my toddler keeps doing things that she knows she shouldn’t do?

“Learning boundaries”.

How do you learn that red is red? By repeat exposure to the idea of red. “This little bit of red among a ton of other colors is red. This ball is red. Wine is a shade of red. Strawberries are a shade of red. Some roses are red but not all roses are red. Pink looks like red but it’s not red. Orange is not red. Green is not red. Blue is not red.

How much exposure do we need in order to fully understand the concept of red? Red is passive. Red is a tiny concept. Red is not human behavior. Red does not have subtle human emotions and patterns of acceptable behavior. Red does not involve self control. Red does not require listening. Red does not require the ability to put another’s wants ahead of your desires or the ability to understand why we should do so.

There are a TON of rules for small human beings. Rules have to be tested to be understood fully. “Does mommy mean no hitting the dog” (this ball is red) or does mommy mean no hitting the dog hard? (this ball is a shade of red) Does mommy mean no hitting the dog with my hands or does it also mean I can’t hit the dog with this toy? (this ball has red on it)

Then once they learn the rules and understand when and how they apply they still have to master the emotional maturity of self control and the empathy to fully understand why not to hit the dog. (Color theory 101).

It’s age appropriate inappropriate behavior. You can respond to it consistently and lovingly by reinforcing the rules without feeling wronged, ignored or disrespected. A toddler is not being disrespectful. A toddler is learning.

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