Most toddler lie, cheat and steal – but don’t worry, it’s completely normal
Come the terrible twos, most of us are prepared for the inevitable tantrums – the best behaved tots can turn in to tear-soaked divas practically over night. But when it comes to toddler behaviour, it’s rare that anyone discusses some of the other undesirable traits that are fairly common.
So what can you expect? Well, lying for one, and you can throw in a touch of cheating and stealing just to complete the picture. Before you panic though, it’s important to know that these behaviours are not only common; they are normal.
At this stage of their development, toddlers are trying to figure out boundaries, understand the difference between right and wrong, reality from imagination – and this is why they commonly lie, cheat and steal.
Toddlers do not lie out of malice, and they do not premeditate or think about their lies. In fact, until the age of three, children do not really understand what lying is so they have no conscious understanding of this behaviour. At this stage, your toddler’s imagination is hugely active and they love to embellish things. Also, often they do not really remember or understand how things have happened, and have a tendency to fill in the gaps.
Encourage honesty and praise your toddler every time he is honest with you. Start teaching your toddler to seeing things from other people’s perspective. For example: “How would you like it if Ben said you put the paint on the wall, when you didn’t?”
Childhood is a time of acquiring skills, learning new things and gaining confidence in abilities. All children inherently want to win they are moving through a phase of self-mastery and they learn very speedily that doing well encourages praise and admiration. Parents will often feel the urge to let their toddlers win, but this does not each children to follow the rules.
If your toddler refuses to follow the rules, do not allow them to play the game. Tell them you understand how badly they want to win, but explain how boring it would be if they always won.
Toddlers are all about instant gratification and they do not readily understand the concept of waiting or patience. The most common reasons that most kids steal then, is because they want something now, or because they want it but cant have it. Toddlers do not understand the idea of personal possessions, so if they want something, they will usually just take it.
Try using your child’s stealing as an opportunity to teach him right from wrong. If you discover that she has taken a doll from a friend’s house, explain that you know she loves dolls and they are fun to play with. Then explain that her friend loves dolls too and that the doll belongs to her. Explain that the friend will be sad when she realises the doll is missing. Tell your toddler that she must give the doll back to her friend and say sorry for taking it. You could then speak to her about way she can get her own doll – waiting for her birthday or by completing a rewards chart.
These behaviours are normal for toddlers, but there are instances when they can be indications of something more serious. If your toddlers consistently lies and steals, despite your best efforts, and does not feel bad about it, or displays more aggressive behaviour, such as destroying property or hurting animals, it might be time to talk to your GP or paediatrician.
Sometimes these types of behaviours can be an indicator of a behavioural disorder that needs to be addressed. Or they could be signs of a learning difficulty, development delay, or even bullying. The important thing to remember is that none of these issues are your toddler’s fault, and they can be helped with the aid of a professional qualified to deal with them.
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