One wonderful thing about toddlers is that as they grow, you can begin to see glimpses of their personality emerging. As language develops, toddlers learn to vary their tone of voice and become more expressive in general. Their budding personalities can have you rolling on the floor laughing one moment and completely annoyed the next.
Toddlers can sometimes develop behavioral quirks as well, things like nose picking, hair twirling, nail biting, and putting their hands down their pants. Depending upon the behavior and the parent, quirky toddler behaviors can inspire a reaction that ranges from wondering whether and when the behavior will stop, to mild annoyance, to total outrage. Part of keeping your cool when deciding what to do when your toddler exhibits quirky behavior is to remind yourself that most quirks fall within the range of normal toddler behavior. Along with that, remind yourself that your little guy’s nose picking at age two will not necessarily translate into nose picking at age twenty.
When you notice that your toddler is exhibiting quirky behavior, take some time to observe what is going on. For example, does your little girl chew on her hair when she is upset or bored? Does your little boy bite his nails frequently so that they are red and raw, or is it just an occasional chew? Observing the behavior will help you to decide whether it is important for you to intervene, or whether it is best to choose your battles and let that particular quirk slide.
Some quirky behaviors, such as running around the house naked, walking around with hands in the pants, and nose picking, are certainly things that you will want to set limits on as far as where they can take place. Make sure that your toddler knows that she can tear around your living room clothing – free, but that she may not do so anywhere else besides your home. Offering her opportunities to engage in the behavior can help to prevent her from doing it in the places where you would rather that she not. Likewise, offering substitutes can help if your child is doing something like hair chewing or nail biting as a self-comforting behavior. Carrot sticks and other crunchy foods may be appealing, or even his favorite infant teething toy if you still have it handy. Occasionally, Dylan tries to chew hard things like plastic or wooden blocks, and he does not seem to mind when I redirect him to his Sophie the Giraffe.
While toddler quirks can be annoying, they are usually harmless. If you are concerned about whether a particular behavior is simply a quirk or a sign of something more serious, ask your pediatrician at your child’s next checkup.