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10 Problems Only Toddlers Have and How I Solve Them

Photograph by Twenty20

My sweet, easy, always-smiling baby guy recently got the memo on the two's and morphed, seemingly overnight, into a full on go-home-you're-drunk Toddler Menace. It's been… challenging. On the one hand, his demands seem random and nonsensical. On the other, he's clearly making lots of sense of the big world around him and discovering his own place within it as a person with preferences and feelings all his own.

He's still mostly wonderfully smiley and sweet, but sometimes his preferences and feelings are… shall we say… strong, and he flips his two-year-old sh*t.

RELATED: An Open Letter to My Toddler's Tantrums

When that happens, my response generally falls into one of three categories:

A) Rolling With It (pick your battles, right?) ,

B) Calling It (sometimes you have to step in)

C) Stopping everything, holding little man close and telling him yes, life can be hard but he is so loved and he will get the hang of it.

Read on for 10 of our recent random toddler problems and the solution that's worked best for each.

1. Fruit

Otto insists on bringing fruit to bed each night. Apples, oranges, that kind of thing. He also changes his mind some 10 to 20 times each evening before finally settling on which fruit he prefers. This process is not only time consuming, it also bruises our fruit (he often drops it on the way to the bedroom) but I've gone with Solution A: Some kids have a blankie, Otto has avocado. Who am I to judge? I like to use opportunities in which I don't have to step in to instead step back and allow my kids to take some ownership over those choices they can make for themselves. I think it also helps them, in turn, accept my interventions when I do need to step in and make decisions for them.

2. "I do it myself!"

Like most toddlers, Otto likes to do things himself whenever he can. The thing is, he's still little, and sometimes he just literally… can't. Recently, we were trying to get out the door and he really, really wanted to put his own rainboots on. He tried, unsuccessfully and with mounting frustration for a good 20 minutes, refusing any offers of help. I finally had to go with Solution B ("Let's put the boots away and wear some sneakers, dude."), which of course he didn't love. The following day, in a carefully chosen moment of calm, I showed him how to step right into his rainboots; he was thrilled, and he can do it all by himself from now on.


This one comes up a lot and is always totally random. Who puts Otto's fork on the table, who's reading the book, who's pouring paint for a project… If it's an easy enough "fix" we'll shrug, go with Solution A and move on but sometimes it's a Solution B because yelling at the people who are pouring your paint never got anyone anywhere. (If he takes issue with this Solution C is a perfect follow-up.)

Wardrobe changes, all day everyday. Sweaters on, sweaters off. Socks on, socks off.

4. Diaper drama

I have to hand it to Otto. He toilet trained himself before he even turned two. We still use diapers at night, though, and sometimes he insists on wearing one during the day. I don't know why. This is definitely a Solution A, though. I trust that most of my kids' big "milestones" are things they'll do on their own, when they're ready, and that there's no need for parental expectations leading to mutual frustration around them. Otto will let the diaper go when he's ready. That's one thing I don't need to stress myself—or him—out about.

5. 3 A.M.

Otto's been a star sleeper from the get-go. So on the rare night when he wakes up at 3 A.M. and wants all manner of activity, entertainment or beverage service (he has a water bottle by the bed but that's where I draw the line,) the answer is no. It's sleep time. Shhhh. Solution B. Goodnight.

6. Mad/Sad About Everything

This is a solution C. It's hard being human. (Note that this also usually only lasts for about five to ten minutes and invariably ends in an impromptu face-down nap.)

7. He wants his brother's toothbrush

My kids are really good about sharing, older bro in particular. But toothbrushes just aren't one of those things they can swap around. What does Otto want more than anything in the world, then? Of course. Kaspar's toothbrush. It is pretty awesome; it talks like Darth Vader and lights up. But so is Otto's light-up Hello Kitty toothbrush. That he chose. And his Storm Trooper one that was originally Kaspar's but that he stole ("I be vewy caweful!") and put in his mouth. So now we're at a firm Solution B. Kaspar's toothbrush is out of Otto's reach, off-limits, not for sharing. Sorry, dude.

8. Body temperature probs.

Wardrobe changes, all day everyday. Sweaters on, sweaters off. Socks on, socks off. Otto's not quite able to dress himself yet, so this interrupts whatever I'm doing constantly. If I try to divert his attention to something else Otto says "I cold. I COLD! FWEEZING!" I generally go with Solution A. I want to show that I trust Otto's body-status feedback, even if I know it's total bull. (He's not cold, y'all.) Maybe he just needs to feel cozy. In any case, I do what I can.

RELATED: Why I'm No Longer Embarrassed by Public Tantrums


The kid gets in these moods when he must be held. If I'm in the middle of making dinner and the clock is ticking toward bedtime (aka meltdown o'clock), I have to ask him to wait (Solution B). If I'm able to stop what I'm doing or multitask, the Ergo back-carry is my bestie (Solution A), while I remind myself that he's craving connection and he won't want me to hold him forever.

10. "I get down!"

The opposite of number 9, of course. As soon as I need to hold Otto (or sit him in a grocery cart or whatever) he wants to get down and walk around. Again, I try to oblige and we have some epically slow grocery trips, let me tell ya. But if it's unsafe, he just has to deal. Pro tip: I have found that heading off these situations works better than trying to navigate them in the moment. For example, I bought a wagon with two seats that face each other. My boys LOVE riding in it, never suspecting that it's basically the equivalent of a double stroller, keeping them contained when I need them that way.

There are more where this list came from—endless variations on toddler tantrum t riggers—but this pretty much covers the basics. What kind of toddler probs are you facing these days, and what solutions do you have on stand-by?

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