When does "normal" toddler behavior end and a problem begin? — The Bump
Toddlers: 24 Months+

When does "normal" toddler behavior end and a problem begin?

DD is almost 30 months, and though she is wonderfully bright and empathetic, she has been a wreck for the last 3 months or so. It has coincided with us bringing home a new baby 14 weeks ago, plus a few brutal illnesses. Even though she is now seemingly healthy (and all her molar are through), and the baby has been here for awhile, she is a total disaster about 50% of the time. She used to be so good natured and sweet, and she still is on her good days. On bad days, though, she wakes up crying, freaks out about everything, and is totally irrational. Typical stuff that you might expect during an illness or a missed nap. For instance, asking for water, then when you give it to her, she screams "I don't want water" and throws the water bottle. Then of course she wants it 2 seconds later. And this goes on, and on, and on, all day sometimes. It seems like attention seeking behavior, but we give her tons of 1:1 attention. And honestly she is great some days. She also wakes up crying at night sometimes, maybe 50-75% of nights - we think it's nightmares.

I realize these are classic toddler issues, but the jeckel and hyde nature of it are making me think something physical is wrong. It is honestly getting to the point where I dread the days I am watching her alone with the baby. This is my own kid, and she used to be the sweetest!! I try to give more hugs on these days and set empathetic limits on her behavior, but it's like dealing with a monster. Is this within the range of what is expected in your experience? I know all kids are vastly different...

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Re: When does "normal" toddler behavior end and a problem begin?

  • My daughter is 27 months and acting very similar (she's an only child, so I don't think the new baby is the cause, just the age). I never know what I'm going to get from one second to the next. We do a lot of toddler gym and library classes, and it seems to be pretty common with the kids.


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  • This sounds totally normal. DD is 30 months and is back to being a pretty good kiddo this week, but we had a several week stretch of tantrum upon tantrum and crying at absolutely everything. It was not fun, but thankfully didn't last forever.
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  • My son is 3 and we have been dealing with this on and off since he was 2.  The water thing is exactly what he sometimes does, exactly.  I'm not sure I deal with it in the best way, I just try to ignore but I also try to diffuse him when he gets really worked up. I'm hoping we are close to being done with the tantrums! 
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  • We deal with this back and forth behavior OFTEN with my three year old son.  It's MISERABLE and so so frustrating.  But, apparently, totally normal.  We find it presents most often when he is tired, hungry, or otherwise cranky.  Generally he is a sweet guy, but he has these moments when he can't seem to make a decision, can't seem to figure out how to get out of this yucky head space.  We have taken to giving him a warning ("This is your last chance to make a choice, and then we stick to whatever you choose - no going back.") and then following through. The tantrums kind of suck, but it's the only way you aren't spending an hour indulging the madness.  And usually he calms himself down after a little bit. 
  • This sounds normal to me.  We do complete 180s at our house with emotions.  Like PP said, it typically has something to do with hunger or fatigue.  It goes in waves.  We might have an emotional few days, and then she's pleasant for a few days.  I don't give tantrums attention, or if she's trying to tell me something, I calmly tell her I can't understand her when she's crying/screaming.  Usually when she figures out that the tantrum isn't getting her anywhere, she calms down.
  • Thanks, ladies. I guess my concern isn't that the behavior in itself is abnormal, it's how much it is happening so suddenly. The happy days are rare for us, and it frankly seems like she feels lousy most of the time. But it's hard to pin down whether it's truly something physical or just that her head is stuck in a bad space. When she does have a good day, it's like a breath of fresh air.

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  • Yep this sounds like my daughter.

    The other day she was coloring, being all cute and sweet. She couldn't get the cap off a marker and instead of asking for help she hurls the marker across the room and flips her little table and screams. She lost her shit. Over a marker cap.

    Toddlers are crazy, yo!
    DawnJM25leighannefarr4
  • Sounds normal to me, my daughter is an only child and went through a similar phase at that age - and still is sometimes (she is 32 months). As exhausting as it is, I don't think it is anything to be concerned about. However, you could always your pediatrician if you think there is cause to worry. 
  • Sounds EXACTLY like my son, who is 29 months.  Half the time I'm pretty sure he doesn't even know why he's crying.  I mostly ignore him when he acts like that.  Or sometimes we'll just put him in his room and he calms down pretty quickly.  We call it "the reboot."
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