7 Annoying Things Toddlers Do That Are Actually Good for Them

annoying things kids do that are actually good for them!I’ve only been a mom for two years, but I can already say this with certainty: Loving your children does not mean they won’t get under your skin sometimes.

Their aggravating ways, which are probably ingrained from birth, are at full throttle in toddlerhood, when meltdowns and chaos and battles of wills are the norm rather than the exception. 

But there’s a silver lining. Despite the fact that they drive you bonkers, these seven exasperating toddler behaviors are actually really important to your child’s learning and emotional development. 

So remind yourself of these the next time you’re ready to rip your hair out! 

7 Annoying Things Toddlers Do That Are Actually Good for Them

1. Make a total mess.

Yesterday my toddler had dirt all over his shorts, chocolate all over his face, and yogurt smashed into his hair—all at the same time. At some point I simply decided to stop cleaning him up and just let the muck accumulate all over him until his next bath.

Turns out my negligence in the cleanliness department is actually helping him learn.

A study published last year in Developmental Science suggests that mashing oatmeal between your hands or flinging chunky applesauce across the room can be very educational for the under 3 set. Researchers observed over 70 toddlers and found that those who made a total mess with their food were then able to learn the words associated with those foods faster and more accurately. 

Translation: That chocolate running down my boy’s chin and that yogurt tangled between his locks was all in the name of learning!

2. Insist on reading the same book over and over again.

Or singing the same song, or playing the same game. I admit that on the 12th time through Goodnight Moon (“Goodnight for real this time, mouse!”), I just want to slap my palm against my forehead.

But I don’t. Most of the time I indulge the repetition because it’s so helpful for toddlers’ speech development; hearing the same words and phrases over and over again helps to cement them into their growing vocabulary. Plus, little kids find such joy in knowing what comes next!

3. Answer every single question with “No.”

Will you eat some breakfast, please? “No.”

Let’s go change your diaper. “No.”

Would you like to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt? “No.” (You’re not even making sense now, child!)

It’s pretty common for toddlers to overuse the word “No”—or my kid’s current favorite, “Nope!”—and it can be seriously frustrating for parents. But try to remember that tucked inside all that seemingly unwarranted defiance is a child who is just developing her self-identity. She’s on an amazing journey of self-discovery that involves the painful realization that her needs and wants are sometimes contrary to her caregiver’s. 

In other words, that stubborn and uncooperative “No!” you’re so tired of hearing? It’s your child asserting her independence and developing a healthy concept of self.

4. Cling to you for dear life.

A few weeks ago, when my 2-year-old and I walked in the door to our playgroup, his arm suddenly and unexpectedly turned into velcro. Coincidentally, my pant leg did too, and we spent most of the time stuck together.

A clingy toddler can be quite irritating when your plan was to chat with your fellow moms while your children bond over block towers. It can be a serious annoyance when you’re leaving for a date night with your hubby and the babysitter has to pry him out of your arms.

But take heart: A young child who clings to mommy or daddy is a child who feels safe and secure with them, which is a very good thing.

What’s more, that tight grip around your neck is your toddler learning how to communicate to you that he feels uneasy in a situation—which opens the door for you to offer the reassurance he needs, which in turn will make him less clingy next time.

5. Throw temper tantrums.

Temper tantrums are probably the most bothersome toddler behavior, perhaps because they tend to happen in the grocery store, at a friend’s house, or at the end of a long day—pretty much any time and anywhere you really don’t feel like dealing with them.

My son’s worst tantrum ever occurred during the 30th birthday party I was throwing for my husband. (Read: When I was hosting a house full of friends and family and was trying to refill the drinks. Good times!)

If you can relate, rest assured that there’s a bright side to those meltdowns.

Bottling up anger and frustration isn’t good for anyone, toddlers included. Your child is at the beginning stage of a journey we’re all on: to learn healthy skills and coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult emotions instead of just repressing them.

That’s not to say parents should give in to the screaming, kicking, and flailing—rather, keep your cool, figure out what’s really going on with your child, and remember that it’s an opportunity to teach them about dealing with anger constructively.

6. Refuse to sit still.

About once a week someone looks at my kid and says, “If only I could bottle up that energy…”

Yes, I’d like to bottle it up too—and chuck the bottle in the ocean around 9:00pm when he’s running around like a crazy person in the opposite direction of his bedroom.

But since I can’t encapsulate his hyperactivity—not for disposal, consumption, or sale, though I’d certainly make a killing if I could!—instead I’m choosing to see the positive.

You see, our kids’ natural desire for movement could keep them healthier throughout their lives. In a 2005 study published in the journal Science, researchers at the Mayo Clinic identified a connection between fidgeting and the number on the scale. Not surprisingly, people who had trouble sitting still tended to weigh less than those who were completely comfortable staying off their feet.

There’s a good chance the toddler who squirms during church or runs laps around the house before bedtime won’t struggle to maintain a healthy weight later in life.

7. Dawdle.

This one really gets me. I’m all about efficiency, so the moments I feel the most irked are the ones when I’m trying to get us out the door before we’re late, and my toddler’s just moseying along as if we have all the time in the world.

I get that he can’t read a clock yet—or fully grasp the concept of time, for that matter—but it’s still frustrating!

A better perspective? Remembering that a bit of dilly-dallying is good for him, and for the rest of the family too. In a world where we all feel chronically rushed, with our brains as crammed as our calendars, a child rambling around the house talking to himself instead of putting on his shoes is sometimes a needed reality check. He needs to slow down, and so do I.

Moral of the story: Toddlers can drive us nuts, but that’s often a good thing because the stuff that makes us batty is integral to their mental and emotional development. Even so, some days they’re lucky they’re also adorable!

What kid behavior do you find downright annoying?

57 responses to “7 Annoying Things Toddlers Do That Are Actually Good for Them”

  1. I think this list needs to shared eternally! Many of the things toddlers do is very essential to their growth and development. I especially like the dawdling bit, because they seem to appreciate life more than we do!

  2. I enjoy my toddler. When I do feel tired or frustrated, I ask myself, “why?” 99% of the time my toddler is not the source.

    I look to understand what’s going on with my toddler developmentally and where I am for the sake of love and our healthy relationship.

    I’m grateful our girl is growing and healthy. She’ll be on to the next point on life at her own pace, so I savor the moments.

    For book reading, depending on the moment, I stack already read books and instruct her to pick a new one. For messes, we give her a cloth and she cleans. Yes, she’s done this since 15 months and will find any “uh oh!” or “oops!” and want to clean it.

  3. You always say it… the big old, IT! How come every time I come here I nod my head in agreement and then I look around wondering why the heck are you not the BIGGEST blogger around?!

    This is bang on. As a former early childhood educator, I had some insights into this (i.e. making a mess and reading the same book over and over again). I just love how you framed this though Katie.

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights. I just adore your blog! I’ll be pinning and tweeting this!

    • i have four childern but my youngest gives me a run for it. if he is not taking things apart he is drawing on my walls, building what i call a mommy trap i keep tripping over his whatever it is he just built i just cant seem to keep up with him.

  4. I have to laugh because my teens still do a few of these, and they are still annoying! But you make some good points, Katie. I’m not sure of the benefits of dawdling and making a mess at age 13, but I’ll just roll with it…

    • my 6 old son is defently giving me a run for my money lol.he’s in the cocky attitude, and im not doing what you tell me stage right now. you know the no im not doing its not my job mommy its your job. i cant tell you how many times we have had to leave a store or a restraunt due to him not staying still or because he was talking to loud or not listening and behaving. ive tried it all and nothing works. please help me before i go crazy lol. oh and he talks to much in class but he does great with school and homework. thanks.

  5. Oh, good night moon! Wrestling annoys me. It’s all fun and games until someone starts crying!! And they can’t keep their hands off each other despite repeated requests.

  6. Scarlet still dawdles at five! I can’t stand that.
    Des is always on the go, though. And I remember having that kind of energy. I remember telling my parents I didn’t know what it meant to be tired.
    Boy I do now.
    The repetitive reading gets annoying but I remember doing it to my parents!

  7. Yes, especially to 1! While I hate messes / clutter, I don’t ever want my kids to feel like they can’t go ahead and be kids – finger paint, grass stains, build a gingerbread house for the holidays. That’s something I have to get over.

    The behavior that drives me bananas? VOLUME. LOUD NOISES. I am teaching a class right now on the local military post (my husband is active duty Army) and one of my little guys, a five year old, yells everything he wants to say. Everything.

  8. The behavior that’s frustrating with my toddler right now is that he’s downright defiant at times, but I keep telling myself that God is going to use that strong-willed personality for good one day. Great reminders here that there are positives in these personality traits that we may not think about. Great post!

    • You are sooo correct! I had a hard journey raising my defiant child and still staying on good terms. The journey continues, but she is now 19 years old and by keeping the channels of communication open and giving her ways to make her own decisions and not putting her down, she has used her strong-willed-ness to resist peer pressure and current culture, while still valuing my opinion and insights. (not that she is perfect, but pretty close to…)

  9. Our toddler woke up screaming for blueberries! He never ever eats them, but must have dreamt about them – he was like a crazed pregnant woman with a craving! It was hysterical and soooo annoying – he was relentless! Ha ha ha

  10. SUCH a genius post. I could stand to read this every.single.day. I forget sometimes my son isn’t even three and a lot of his annoying tendencies are part of his development!

  11. Oh my gosh! Drawing on HERSELF! And the dramatic on off switch. She will just fall to pieces for the smallest thing, the baby took her toy she wasn’t playing with (also not even her toy) and she will wail and screech and “ooooh! Look a rabbit! Hahahah” totally fine. The drama , while completely normal for her age, is AGONIZING for me on some days.

  12. Children are just disgusting annoying brats. First they love in you, then they live off you, and you never get a moment’s peace. Thank God I don’t have any and Ill take every precaution not to either.

    • I hope you realize you were once a child yourself 🙂

      Besides, your own children make a serious difference. I couldn’t stand my younger siblings half the time and thought they were gross, but my own child does the same thing and it’s far less bothersome. Annoying, yes, but you love them despite it.

  13. Great post! Very true indeed. One thing that drove me nuts was the whining/whimpering and tantrums. As a social worker, I definitely value and encourage the need to cry or be upset and encouraged my girls to use their words to express their feelings. When they would whine or tantrum, I would tell them that they needed to take that upstairs to their room and they could come down when they were ready to use their words. I wasn’t sending them to their room as a consequence; I was just saying they couldn’t have their tantrum in the space we were in… It’s amazing how it stopped instantaneously! Then we’d talk about what was bothering them. I cannot tolerate whining. It’s a pet peeve of mine. I think this strategy has been helpful in supporting/validating their feelings, teaching them to identify their feelings and communicate effectively without reinforcing the tantrum behavior. My girls are 6 & 8 now and are very good about recognizing their feelings and expressing them appropriately (talking about them/problem solving and/or taking space). Being a mom has taught me a lot. BEST. JOB. EVER! Hard but the best!

  14. The ONLY dawdle that I hate is when it’s -12 and the wind is gusting and my little girl wants to go the opposite direction. ITS COLD!!!! That’s when I pick her up and run. Otherwise, we usually spend 20 min just getting from the door to the car after daycare.

  15. I have 4 kiddos 6,5,3, and 1. they ALL do annoying things… they are kids of course :). Things that annoy me is HOW VERY LOUD THEY ARE HOLY COW! nit picking my older 2 just today fought over the hungry hippo game and who started out with more little balls like gosh guys knock it off and play the game! haha. I don’t like rushing around to get out the door so i usually TRY to be out the door atleast 45 minutes before i need to be somewhere since it takes so long JUST to get out the door it leaves room for the “i gotta poop”… or that dirty diaper that just decided to happen on the way out the door… strange it happens so often! haha Speaking of bathroom… WHY does one kid have to go (while we are out and about) RIGHT AFTER i get out of the bathroom with another ever though you INSIST they come along to GO anyways they scream and fight they don’t have to go when you know darn well as soon as you get out they will have to pee so bad they need to go RIGHT THIS SECOND OR THEY WILL PEE THEIR PANTS! that’s another that gets me haha EVERY TIME!

  16. This is a great list! My son loves reading the same books over and over again. I always oblige because I know how good it is from teaching kindergarten. I’ll have to keep these in mind for temper tantrums!

  17. My dogs are looking at me like I’m crazed. “Chuck the bottle in the ocean at 9pm” Yes, yes I wish I could do that. Why don’t they have off buttons or at least a pause button so we do have time to compose ourselves before adding to their frustration with our own. I will be sharing this on pinterest, fb and g+., every parent needs to read this.

  18. I should be an expert ( I have 3 kids; 13, 3 and 2) but my middle child is so handful, he don’t nap, if I try to put him to nap he would spend 3 hours fussing around and then sleep and at night it would be the samerhing… I have a routine and usually he sleep (well try) around 2pm and bedtime at 8:30… Any suggestions? Please help

  19. It’s not just toddlers it’s all through a child’s journey. I have 4 children and the youngest is now 23. I learned how letting my children settle their petty battles taught them to negotiate in there adult life. How creating total disasters in our yard taught them reasoning, cooperation, and responsibility(cleaning it up after they were done). I could go on forever about the joy as well as the frustration I felt at times while finding that line between allowing my children the freedom to grow and learn and spoiling them. But really the most useful thing I ever learned was if I made a mistake by losing my cool over a mess, disrespect, etc. was admitting it and saying I always love you even if I’m mad. I believe they learned everyone makes mistakes just own it and move on. I am now watching my grandkids grow. Children are amazing gifts as long as you truly cherish them you can’t go wrong.

  20. Really great article and reminder that kids are little adults still learning everything. We don’t expect adults to learn things instantly why should we expect it out of our chidlren.

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  22. Hello! I’m the author of Spill Proof Blog, a blog about kiddos, life, and the messes that they both entail. I just posted about some of my favorite ways to make messes with kids after reading this post. I linked all my readers back here as well. Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work!

  23. I love your comment Wendy and 100% agree. I also have found with my daughter that usually the source of frustration isn’t her, but something I am dealing with!

  24. I can so relate to all the points here, especially the tantrums part. Having two kids myself, it’s hard when one throws a temper tantrum but even worse when the other one chimes in! Ha! Now that’s a whirlwind of emotions for all of us. Thankfully, my partner is always around to calm us all down. This helps me in such a huge way! Sharing this on my page here http://bit.ly/KidsHavingFunTimes. Thanks!

  25. This is soooo true. My son has sever developmental delays and has just started some of these wonderful things at age 11. I am still waiting for the verbal “no” but he can’t certainly communicate “no.”

  26. Hi Katie, I just toured your link and was really impressed to see this wonderful article about toddler’s behavior. When a child stomps his feet and shout ‘No, I won’t do it!’ he’s expressing a spontaneous feeling. It’s important that children feel their position is taken into consideration, so listen a bit to understand and validate them. Preparing children emotionally is quite possibly one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids for a happy and successful life! This piece reminder that your kiddos are little adults still learning everything.

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