5 'hidden' messages from a toddler

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance. (Franklin P. Jones)
No, I am not gonna lie. Yes, parenthood is wonderful, that's non-questionable. BUT, there is always a 'but', it's frustrating in so many moments. If you say that you never got frustrated, then I know you are lying. Gotcha!

It's very okay to be frustrated, because whom we are facing are toddlers. They have a lot stuffs in their head, and they don't have so many words or so many ways to distribute it. They know they want to do something, but they don't know how - and then they start to cry. They want something, but they don't know the words - then they start to throw tantrum. They want to play, play, and play, and then dragging us to follow them; while we, ourselves, have hundreds things to do on the list. We are frustrated, and they are too. It's normal.

I do know sometimes mothers would cry in the corner after having a rough day. Sometimes mothers do nothing in a day to gather their sanity back. Sometimes mothers serve bread and milk to their children for the whole day. Sometimes mothers lock themselves in a bathroom only to have several minutes of peace, scrolling on their instagram's feed. No judging here, because I am one of you, high five!

There are several things that my toddler always do, and sometimes it frustrates me, but actually there are 'hidden messages' behind their actions.

1. Asking the same question, over and over again.
She likes to ask, "what is this?", "what is this?", "what is this?" even though she knows the answer! And she likes to repeat the same "what is this?" question to the same object, after she finishes pointing at all the objects.
The next thing she likes to ask is, "where is grandma?", "where is grandpa?", "where is papa?", "where is uda?", although the person she is asking presents in the room, next to her! For the first five questions, usually, I would answer, but after that, I will usually start to breathe in and breathe out.

Why is she doing it?
It's repetition, it's the same like when she's asking me to read the same book over and over again. Toddlers love repetition, it helps them to build memories, it helps them to improve their speech.

What should I do?
Maybe, it's not enough for my toddler if I only give her a short answer, she needs more. So, after I finish my breathe-in-breathe-out ritual, I would reply her in a longer answer. For instance, when she asks, "where is grandma?". Instead of answering, "she's there"; I would probably answer, "She's sitting in the chair, over there. Can't you see her? Look, she's smiling at you!". By doing that, I help her to react on my direction, to follow my instruction to look at her grandma.

2. Possessive
I used to think that possessiveness won't happen to a child if I introduced the word "share" since day one. No, it doesn't work that way and I see how my toddler turns into a 'possessive' little being recently. All objects in our house are hers, even the house. And at some moments of conversation, she says that I can't be in the house of hers, "This house is not Mama's house. This is Iola's. You go."

Why is she doing it?
She's being more independent and all the things she thinks are belong to her, she wants to mark it as the extension of herself. She doesn't want somebody else suddenly sits on her chair, or plays with her ball. She's more aware on the existence of her, in a space, in this very moment; it's getting four-dimentional for her.

What should I do?
Keep repeating the word 'share', although most of the time she would reject or ignore it.
I have one example:
One day, she just got a new ball and I wanted to play it with her, so I picked up the ball from the floor. Suddenly, she cried out loud and said that the ball is hers and I can't touch it. I didn't want to let go at first because I wanted to explain that it will be more fun if we can play together. She didn't want to listen and continue to cry, even getting louder.
So, I gave the ball to her while saying, "Here is your ball, hold it tight."
She stopped crying.
"So, what can you do with the ball by yourself? Isn't it more fun if you could throw the ball to me, I will catch it. And then, I will throw it back to you."
She was listening.
"Don't you want to try it?"
She was in doubt, but she extended her arms - a sign that I could touch the ball. So, I took the ball and started to throw it to her. She smiled and jumped happily, then we started to play throw-and-catch.

It's not easy on "this is mine" phase, but it will pass. Repeatedly, I have to ask her to share and show her how much I would share "my things" with her. Exposing her to a group of other children will also help her to improve with the possessive-ness.

3. Love messy play much more than play with stuffed animals
She has a lot of love for messy play, she loves to squeeze watercolor tubes, she loves to get messy with paints, she loves to play with water, she loves to play with rice, and she looooves to draw my face. The messier, the merrier; that's her motto. The most frustrating play for me is squeezing watercolor tubes (grrrr!), and that is NOT a play. She only loves to squeeze, and after all the colors are out, she will just mix them altogether and wrap it up. No painting session! What a waste of watercolor!

Why is she doing it?
Simple explanation: exploration.

What should I do?
Bear with the mess because it's for her own good. Scientific research has proven that there are a lot of benefits from messy play: fine motor skill development, eye-hand coordination, communication and language development, creative, intellectual development, and social skill development if it's being done in  a group.
That many benefits and you want to ignore it? I don't think so ;p So, bear with it and carry on!

4. A battle to take them for nap
It's not everyday for me (thank Lord!), but when it happens.. I would rather let her roaming around! Not! I would fight with myself and being frustrated, that's what I do, because I desperately want her to sleep (so that I could do other things). She would play, play, and play endlessly; even though she's sleepy, she would refuse to sleep. And the more sleepier she is, the more crankier she becomes. Who likes to handle a cranky little girl? Nobody would raise his hand, for sure. And it's either I fall asleep first, or I ignore her to do other things rather than dealing with the insane situation. Both ways would bring her to sleep, eventually. It's just a matter of how long it will take to finally get the result of sleeping toddler.

Why is she doing it?
Curious is the answer. She fights because she wants to be involved on whatever going on in her surrounding. Besides, she also wants to establish her independency.

What should I do?
One thing I'd always do is, bring her to sleep before she's really sleepy. Always works like wonder. Even though she's not sleepy enough, still, it's best to make the situation feels like bedtime situation. Also, whenever I'm home, I will try to set a routine, so that she knows it's naptime, it's time for her to sleep, and it's non-debatable.

5. Wants to do everything on her own
Wants to put soap on her body during bath time and end up with lots of wastage, wants to bring her plate full of food to the table, wants to carry a heavy plastic bag instead of letting her mama carries for her, wants to carry shopping basket although we only buy a bottle of dettol, wants to put on her lotion, etc. It's really impressive when I did the list: wow, what a good job darling! I should be proud, aren't I? Yes, I am. But, there are many times that we are in a rush and we need to do things quickly, and the little human is not helping at all by carrying a heavy plastic bag by herself (it's end up, she drags the bag).

Why is she doing it?
Again, it's independency.

What should I do?
Make a peace with yourself, it's not the end of the world if you are being late once. Next time I go out with her, I would save extra times so that she can drag the bag all the way to the car. And it's best to show her gratitude on whatever she does by herself, say "thank you for your help". It's good to let them do stuffs by herself, it helps her to boost her self esteem. Even if on the way of bringing the plate to the table, food are falling here and there, it's still a good thing. It's one tiny step to gain new skill and praise her for the initiative shown.


There is always a reason on toddler's behaviour, not to forget that they are actually developing therefore they do what they do. Whenever you get frustrated, just remember the hidden messages. Maybe you don't know the message yet, maybe you are too tired to find out. So, that's okay. Take your time and remember toddlers need time to be able to communicate their needs.

Hang on there, mamas!


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