Toddlers are downright weird. It's true. They exhibit a range of strange and sometimes destructive forms of behavior that can be troubling to parents. But that's part of their learning curve. That's what they have to go through in order to evolve into their preteens, teens, and, eventually, adulthood. But problems lie within specific types of behavior. Some are perfectly normal and others are far more peculiar and could be damaging to their health, mental health, or society as a whole.
The following is a list of behaviors that experts say are more than absolutely acceptable for their age. Some may seem a tad on the weirder side, but they assure parents that they are, in fact, normal.
Additionally, we've included things that parents should be a little wary about (but as always, consult with a doctor or specialist if there are any serious concerns). After all, it's a necessity to be knowledgeable when it comes to raising children. What we do or don't do will imprint on them for the rest of their lives (let that soak in for a minute....).
Without further ado, here are 10 weird behaviors from toddlers that are totally normal and 10 that moms should be a bit worried about...
20 Not Weird: Having Imaginary Friends
When we were kids, we all had imaginary friends. Hey, some of us still do since they tend to be a little more reliable than our Facebook connections. But sometimes parents forget this fact when it comes to their own children. They fear that if their child has an imaginary friend it means that they won't (or can't) connect with actual kids. Or far worse, that it's a sign of a deeper psychological issue.
But creating imaginary friends is vital for a child's development. Baby Gaga says it gives them a sense of control. After all, seldom does an imaginary friend rebel against a child's wishes. This friend will accompany them in their mind, especially in scary situations. Imaginary friends also encourage your child to be creative and inventive.
19 Weird: Complete Isolation
Though any child will desire some alone time, it's not normal for them to want to be completely isolated all of the time, says The Bump. This goes for interacting with family members and parents as well. If a child is always wanting to be alone, it could indicate that he or she is developing a form of depression. Psychologists say that bringing a child to a trained professional is vital in this situation. They are the best at determining whether or not they are indeed suffering from a chemical imbalance or just in a strange stage.
While it's important that every child learn to enjoy time spent alone, it's also necessary that they learn the skills one needs to socialize. After all, the chances of them being around people most of the time are higher than in complete isolation.
18 Not Weird: Night Terrors
Any parent would be concerned if they heard their son or daughter screaming in the middle of the night. The truth is, kids do have nightmares and it can cause them to react this way, but night terrors are another thing entirely.
A night terror is usually far more dramatic than ordinary nightmares. They will cause a child to wake up and babble incoherently, perhaps even in a cold sweat. They may also sleep-walk while experiencing one. All of this is quite unnerving to parents, but fear not, it happens.
According to child psychologists, night terrors usually take place during a child's transition from non-REM sleep (the stages of a youngster's sleeping patterns) to a lighter REM sleep. A child's central nervous system may struggle with this transition due to the fact that they are inexperienced. This could result in these night terrors and they usually pass in time. But if you're concerned, always see a doctor or child psychologist.
17 Weird: Over-Eating
It's understandable for any parent to be concerned if their child is over-eating. After all, the stigma, as well as copious health-issues, that come with childhood obesity, or any obesity for that matter, is overwhelming and endless. Usually, people, including kids, who overeat have an addiction that may stem from some sort of unresolved emotional trauma from the earliest stages of their lives. This is usually completely unconscious and best dealt with the help of a trained professional.
Regardless, if your child has little-to-no self-control when it comes to eating, there's something that needs to be addressed. After all, you wouldn't want them suffering from this addiction when they're older. Curving this behavior at a young age is vital. That doesn't necessarily mean keeping them on a strict diet (they are kids after all), but it does mean that their habits should be moderated.
16 Not Weird: Being Scared Of Grandma
Some grandmas are scary, there's no doubt about it. But it can still be a little weird when your toddler is constantly running away from your own mother when she comes to visit. Plus, it must not make grandma feel very good. But what's really going on is a bit of stranger anxiety.
For toddlers, Baby Gaga says stranger anxiety is normal, even when that stranger is actually going to be including them in their will. Experts don't really understand why toddlers struggle with this, but it's far from uncommon, especially with children who have slow-to-warm-up temperaments. All they need is a little reassurance and eventually, this issue will pass.
15 Weird: Hair Pulling
Baby Center says one of the reasons children pull other people's hair is that they are starting to figure out that there will be a reaction to this action. They know that if they pull their sister's hair, she will stop doing what they didn't like. It's one of the easiest ways to gain some sort of control over their environment. When they're younger, they're also just a bit curious about what the long, scraggly things coming out of heads are.
A child pulling out their own hair is another matter entirely. It could be something like anxiety or just being downright upset. Even if it is one of these things, a child needs to learn that they cannot solve their problems this way. If the behavior isn't curved, they may be struggling with this into adulthood. But this could also indicate some sort of impulse control disorder, in which case you need to consult a doctor.
14 Not Weird: Living Like A Superhero
Though there's that whole Spider-Man line about power and responsibility, many people would love to live their life with abilities beyond imagination. Children are no different. In fact, they're even more enthralled with it because they haven't yet been over-saturated with endless Marvel and DC movies.
More importantly, children like to play. They like to play A LOT. That means they may want to dress like the character they want to play all of the time. It may be weird to be dragging around a little Wonder Woman at your boss' dinner-party, but it's completely normal. Your kid is also learning quite a lot about his or her own identity by playing someone else's.
13 Weird: Steep Decline Academically
For someone, any age, a steep and sudden decline in academic performance is a sign of something bigger going on. But unlike adults, when this happens at a young age, it's usually more serious.
The American Psychiatric Association says that a decline in, as well an overall poor, academic performance could indicate that the child is feeling depressed, have a learning disability, or is dealing with a major social disturbance. The Association (APA) recommends that all parents have a strong line of communication with their children, so their kids will feel comfortable enough to approach them and share any issues they may be experiencing.
12 Not Weird: Head-Banging
Children can be '80s rockstars: they like banging their head. Some kids actually find the activity soothing, even though it seems anything but. This can be scary for parents who believe that their kids are either exhibiting some sort of mental illness or are just plain hurting themselves. But it usually is nothing to worry about.
If your kid is actively hurting themselves in a severe way by this head-banging, then you may want to consult a doctor right away. But the whole action of rocking, swaying their head side-to-side in bed, or banging their head on the wall is actually quite relaxing to them. The rhythmic motion helps them calm what can be an absolutely overstimulating nervous system in the midst of development.
11 Weird: A Bully At School
This world that we all inhabit is filled with far too many bullies. It's our job as parents to do our very best to give our kids every empathetic, intellectual, and the emotional tools they need to avoid being a total piece of work.
But it's also true that humans are far from infallible. We are all capable of doing the worst things imaginable. If you don't think that you're capable of the worst things you read on Twitter, you need to do two things: first off, read a bit more about psychology. Secondly, take a really good look in the mirror. The truth is, if you wanted to be or were given the opportunity, you could be absolutely evil. And so could your kid...
Understanding why your child is bullying other kids in school is something that's important in changing the behavior. Do they feel that they need to assert themselves to compensate for something? Did they not receive enough love at home? Did they not get the attention that they required? Whatever it is, you need to deal with it right away. If you can't do it on your own, it's best to seek professional guidance.
10 Not Weird: Temper Tantrums
Toddlers are developing the skills they need to control their impulses. They have not yet mastered them. Therefore, it's easy to understand why they may through a temper-tantrum when they don't get what they want.
These tantrums can be absolutely annoying and downright embarrassing if they're happening in public, but they are, unfortunately, normal. Laura Jana, MD, makes a point of saying that impulse control "is a learned skill." It's something that they have a difficult time fully getting a grasp on, but then again, so do many adults. The key is to try and teach them this skill and come to terms with the fact that they are more than likely going to grow out of the temper-tantrum phase... Just not soon enough.
9 Weird: Persistent Aggression
There comes a time when you have to seek help to deal with a child's aggression. Getting angry with things is normal, especially for a toddler who just doesn't understand the way the world works, or even how their own body, mind, and soul works yet. But it's a whole different ball-game when this anger turns into a persistent, unbridled, rage that's not only impacting their own sanity but also harming others. This can be both physical and verbal. If a child is constantly doing this, something is almost always up.
Whether to seek professional help over this behavior really depends on how severe it is, at least according to experts at Psychology Today. If it's causing problems at your kid's daycare or preschool, it's almost definitely a cause for concern. In short, you need to deal with this thing right now.
8 Not Weird: Running Around In The Buff
Yep, children love to be naked. Sorry, folks, it's not weird. It's actually completely natural. After all, it is the state that nature gave us.
Toddlers who do this are actually just exploring themselves. They are discovering how their own unique bodies work and how they interact with things around them. Clothes also can be a tad uncomfortable for children who still haven't' wrapped their minds around them.
For parents who wish that their kids wouldn't expose themselves to the world constantly, the best thing to do is to wait for this stage to wear out (no pun intended). It will pass. No, they probably won't join a nudist colony when they're older either. Also, don't make a big deal about it either. If you do, your child may strip nude as an act of defiance.
7 Weird: Explicit Art
Children explore when they draw. They not only explore the things that they feel and want inside of them, but they also tend to mimic what they see or experience around them.
There are some situations where a child starts drawing images that can be a bit disturbing, such as car wrecks, violent acts, highly suggestive moments, or weapons. Most of the time, psychologists say that it comes from a fear of bad things happening to them or those they love. If you can identify the specific fear, it may be easier to actually work through this with them. But other times it could indicate something a little more troubling.
It's best to ask your child about why they drew what they drew, especially if the drawings are quite violent in nature. You don't want them thinking that it's okay to cause harm to themselves or others.
6 Not Weird: Playing Dress-Up
This entry is similar to the one about toddlers' desire to be superheroes. Except some parents worry when their son or daughter is dressing up in a costume that is usually seen on the opposite gender. But here's the thing, Baby Gaga explains how children don't really identify with a specific gender until later in life. Most of the time, they are just exploring all of the different possibilities subconsciously until they find what suits them best. Though some parents worry about this for a variety of reasons, there's really nothing to be concerned about at all.
Ultimately, from a child's perspective, dressing up is just a form of play and they aren't aware of anything else that may be going on. Don't worry, this form of play is a very good thing for their identity and their confidence.
5 Weird: Violence Against Siblings
While it's very true that siblings fight, especially when they're younger, if one of your kids is constantly wailing on the other, you may have a big problem on your hands. Or, at least, one that you need to go and address with a professional right away.
Some kids get exceptionally jealous of their siblings who they perceive are getting more attention or affection than they are. This isn't just about physical things, it's about what's said and unsaid. This jealousy can lead to acts of aggression, since that's one of the only ways young kids know how to express themselves.
It's important that parents do their best to be aware of these things when they have two or more children. But it's also important to address them while they are young so that they don't develop into larger problems when the kids grow-up. And in the short term, one of your kids is in harm's way.
4 Not Weird: Biting
Experts say that toddlers bite for two main reasons. Firstly, they are testing the environment around them with all their five senses. Yes, that means that are touching and tasting with their mouths for a reason. They don't yet know that that's not appropriate. But it's not uncommon as they are coming to terms with this. It's exploration.
Secondly, Active Beat says they are using biting as a form of expressing their anger. Toddlers don't really have the skills to deal with conflict yet. That's why they're prone to temper-tantrums. Biting is a form of expressing anger and it's very primal. As awful as it can be, it's completely natural for a child to use it as a tool to let their parents, siblings, and friends know that they are unhappy about something.
But as natural as all of this is, this is still a behavior that needs to be curbed.
3 Weird: Hitting Themselves
Experts at Parents magazine claim that when a child hits themselves it may be a sign that the child may have some sort of neurochemical imbalance. This leads to a spike in endorphins which causes them to hit themselves. The rush of endorphins may also numb the pain caused from self-injury. Usually, this imbalance corrects itself over time as it's part of the developmental process. Regardless, it's still important for every child to seek a doctor's opinion on this.
However, a child hitting themselves may also be a sign of a more extreme issue such as autism. But it could also be a child's inability to express that they have an ear infection. The general rule of thumb when it comes to stuff like this is to always seek medical and psychiatric advice.
2 Not Weird: Playing With Waste
Yep, this entry is very, very gross. But it's also very natural. That's because children at this age are on sensory overload. They are experiencing things for the first times in their lives, whereas we are used to things like bowel alleviation.
Get into the mindset of a child who is seeing something soft and squishy coming out of them. Of course, they're going to want to touch it. It's so unbelievably gross to think about, but kids are exploratory. They want to know what things feel, smell, and even taste like.
But this behavior needs to be curbed. They need to start to understand the things surrounding hygiene, germs, and general social norms. The last thing you need is your child bringing out his turd at the dinner table when you have special company over... Or any company, for that matter.
1 Weird: Shuddering
According to the National Center for Biotechnical Information, children exhibiting constant shuddering behavior may be a sign of a problem with their nervous system. Usually, these issues resolve themselves, but it's still important to seek a medical opinion if you see your kid constantly shivering or shuddering. It can be some sort of benign disorder and is usually nothing like a seizure, but it still can be a cause for concern.
Any parent, realistically, would be concerned if their child couldn't sit still without their body shaking like this. And in some cases it a cause of concern. It's always better to be on the safe side when it comes to things of this nature. Never be afraid to seek a medical opinion, they can make all the difference in the world, even if it's just giving you peace of mind.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Urban Child Insitute, Baby Gaga, CDC, Active Beat, Zero To Three, The Bump, Health Line, Parents, Baby Center