Toddlers are a crazy breed, with contrariness, tantrums and wild antics all wrapped up in a cute little package. Your tot is learning to think for himself and finally realizing he’s independent of you. He wants control of his universe, but he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to understand how his actions affect others, think before he acts, or avoid dangerous situations. While the terrible twos transcend gender and girls also struggle through this tricky developmental phase, boys do tend to show particular behaviors more frequently, and prove some stereotypes true.
Most toddlers are super-active, but boys seem to be on high gear all the time. Psychologist Mary Roth Walsh, in her book “Women, Men and Gender,” notes that “male infants and toddlers are more active, particularly in large body movements.” She writes that research has no answers as to the cause of that gender difference, but the effects are clear: Leave your little guy unattended for a few minutes while you empty the dishwasher, and he’ll be 6 feet in the air on top of a bookshelf. Toddler-proof your home thoroughly to keep your little boy safe; brace furniture to the walls and keep things you don’t want him getting at out of reach. And don’t forget to keep your first-aid kit well-stocked.
Little boys are naturally aggressive and won’t hesitate to use force to get what they want. In her book “From Boys to Men,” Dr. Emily Senay describes how research conducted over many years at the University of Quebec found that “at twenty-nine months, 41 percent of boys (and “just” 27 percent of girls) sometimes kicked other children; 33 percent of boys (and 23 percent of girls) bit other kids; and 24 percent of boys (and 15 percent of girls) hit other kids.” So if your little brute is constantly involved in scraps and scuffles, fear not, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a bully in the making — just a typical toddler boy.
Put a group of 2-year-old boys in a room and you have a recipe for chaos. Yelling as loud as they can, boys will lob toys, bang stuff together and crash into walls. Eventually, because they’re toddlers, there will be fighting and crying. All that drama is one of the reasons young children start to play in gender-specific groups. When toddlers were observed for a study described in “Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence” by psychologists David R. Shaffer and Katherine Kipp, Ph.D., researchers found that “boys were simply too boisterous and domineering to suit the taste of many girls, who prefer less roughhousing and would rather rely on polite negotiations rather than demands or shows of force when settling disputes with their playmates.” Nothing polite or dainty about the way toddler boys deal with each other, that’s for sure.
They Love Their Cars and Trucks
You can give your little guy dolls and tea sets, but he’ll still gravitate toward planes, trains and automobiles. Though you may wish your son was less stereotypically guy-like, keep in mind that this sort of play is an important part of gender identification for toddlers. As pediatrician Vincent Iannelli points out on his site keepkidshealthy.com, “To a child’s way of thinking, gender identity is established by whether one has long hair or short hair, whether one wears dresses or pants, and whether one plays with dolls or trucks. Once the child realizes that his or gender is stable, then these stereotypical behaviors usually subside.” With luck, you may have a small window of non-truck-obsession before video games take over his life.