• Penni from Up Up n Away

Toddlers : Behaviour

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

toddler behaviour tantrums growth development terrible twos learning clingy

Once your baby is between 12 months and 3 years, they are now a toddler! Your child is turning into a bundle of curiosity – asking questions and developing a mind of their own.

Your toddlers do as you do. Your child will pick up appropriate behaviours as you model them. As their communication skills are still developing, children generally respond far better to the things you do, over the things you say. For example, if you want your child to speak softly, then speaking quietly yourself is more effective than saying “shush”. From 12 months toddlers are experiencing major behavioural milestones, such as the ability to empathise. Consequence and cause and effect are becoming more and more relevant to your child. Showing and/or telling your toddler how you feel will help them identify and mirror similar emotions and will help equip your child with the ability to cope. Expressing your feelings “I’m getting upset/I feel sad about” shows you your child’s behaviour affects you. Starting a sentence with “I” helps your child see things from your perspective.

One of the most effective ways to encourage positive behaviours, is through positive reinforcement. Catching your child being good and expressing your appreciation is referred to as ‘descriptive praise’. An example of this is praising your child for picking up their toys, instead of waiting for the toys to tumble and reprimanding your child. The general ratio of 6:1 is recommended, meaning one reprimand to every six praises.

It is important to remember that your toddler is growing steadily but is still so young. Sharing will be a skill they begin to develop, though children of this age tend to play alongside other children instead of ‘with’ another child. They will start to understand the concept of taking turns but may still become upset or throw a tantrum if asked to wait their turn.

Generally, from around their first birthday, toddlers approach a huge behavioural milestone which will mean they may begin to do what you ask of them! By this age, many children may be beginning to control their urges – you may notice a shift in behaviour as they develop the ability to self-regulate.


Self -regulation is basically a child’s abilities to change their behaviour and follow directions. Obviously, not all the time, but as they grow so does their ability to stop themselves from doing something they want to do (like painting the walls!) or performing tasks they do not like (like picking up their toys) even when adults are not around to ask them to.

This wonderful stage of development is one of the most important milestones in life. Without it, children would have a near impossible time learning how to function, learn, play, or get along with people life in general. Every child develops some sort of self-regulation, though every toddler is different. As with any development, some children develop this ability earlier than others, just as some children are shy and others are outgoing, differing personality traits will lead to a differing level of self-regulation development.

There are two types of self-regulation, the ‘Dos’ and the ‘Don’ts’. ‘Dos’ include doing things or finishing things your Toddler does not want to do i.e. “please clean up your toys”. ‘Don’ts’ is telling your child things not to do when they really want to do them is “Don’t throw daddy’s keys please”. Children deal with “Dos” and Don’ts” very differently, however studies have shown that toddlers are generally better at following Don’t requests than Do’s. This is probably due to the fact that most children hear “Don’ts” more often and at an earlier age than Dos.

As your toddler ages their ability with self-regulation will generally improve to the point where your child will internalise your guidance – meaning your toddler may act in ways that they think you would expect, even if you are not present.

It is important to always remember that your child may be showing signs of behavioural development and then may suddenly regress or have off days where there seems to be no obvious progress. This is normal, and these skills grow over time, so remain patient and allow your toddler to develop at their own pace.


Over the past 12months you will have heard your baby cry – a lot. You will have grown to recognise differing cries and their meanings, and your baby’s expectations as to how you react to these cries.

From 1 year onwards your toddler will still cry when they are tired, hungry, or uncomfortable, but they will be learning to develop some control over their crying as they learn to communicate their feelings more easily.

When your newborn or baby cried you instinctively went to soothe them, however toddlers sometimes require a varied approach to their crying, to avoid bad habits forming. An example of this is if your toddler cries when he is put down, and you pick him back up again, this may reiterate to him that tears will entice you to act.

How to Respond to Toddlers Cries

If your child is crying, regardless of their age, it’s important to check that they are not injured or unwell. If you are unsure or concerned don’t ever hesitate to get advice from your relevant healthcare provider.

If you determine your toddler is physically ok, then the following may help you to try and work out the reason your toddler is crying:<