Why is my toddler so difficult? Raising a Spirited Toddler

Toddlers seem to have two modes: ticking time bombs or, a giggling ball of energy. It is for this reason that toddlerhood can be hard to navigate (for kids and parents alike). Just like you and me, toddlers have their own rationale. If I am fully honest, their rationale rarely lines up with ours, making it much harder. Almost all toddlers are this way, but some parents fall into raising a “spirited” toddler.

Raising a Spirited Toddler

If you are raising a toddler like this, you know exactly what I am talking about. You may even be here because you are looking up difficult toddler temperament and what to do. If you ask yourself “Why is my toddler so difficult?” on a constant basis, this may be a hint that you are raising a spirited toddler.

So what is the secret for raising a spirited toddler?

The secret is discerning the reasons for the difficult toddler temperament. If you can identify the specific reasons (which may even change on a day-to-day basis, or an hour-to-hour basis depending on how spirited your toddler is) that you are seeing difficult toddler temperament, noticing that is over half the battle to working with your child.

A Friendly Note about Raising a Spirited Toddler

Your toddler is (rarely) trying to be difficult. They have several reasons as to why they may be acting out, but it is seldom to just randomly cause chaos.

In the same way, difficult toddler temperaments are rarely at the fault of the parent. Both the child and the adult are learning their way through this, so just as you are giving your child grace, make sure you are giving yourself some grace as well. Raising a spirited toddler is not an easy task, but it can be done!

Reasons for Difficult Toddler Temperament


Toddlers are by nature, emotional beings. Much like you and I, they have a wide range of emotions. The difference is: they are learning how to appropriately navigate those emotions. The inability to consistently manage some emotions can mean that your toddler can easily spiral out of control (also known as a temper tantrum).

It is easy to meet anger with anger, or meet frustration with frustration, but keep in mind that your child is learning how to cope with their emotions, and they can only do that through guidance and observation. When your toddler starts watching more and more how you handle situations, it will give him or her the tools needed to start controlling emotions without leading to temper tantrums.

Communication Skills

Toddlers can lack effective communication skill to get their exact need or wants across. That can mean they struggle to communicate with kids and adults alike. The lack of communication skills can easily lead to frustration.

Imagine if you were simply trying to express something you wanted, but could not find the words to ask? It would be a frustrating process. Combining this with the idea above about controlling emotions, and it can be a double whammy. Working with your toddler on communication is a huge part of raising a spirited toddler.

Bad Days

You and I have bad days and so does your toddler. Often times we try to correct this one way or another. Just as much as you and I are allowed to have bad days, toddlers should be as well. When we try to correct their attitude or tell them to be less grumpy, it oftentimes makes things worse.

Following Examples

Toddlers are very impressionable. They pick up on so many things that we don’t even realize they are seeing. It can be something as simple as misinterpreting what they see on T.V. that can cause them to act a certain way. They may also be mimicking what they see their friends doing. If you notice your toddler’s behavior coinciding with a new phrase you have not yet heard them say, it may be valuable to look into where the phrase came from.


Kids of any age can sense when you are stressed which, makes them feel stressed. Toddlers are more apt to make those feelings known to others. What you can show quietly is not the same for your toddler. Try doing something fun with your toddler to alleviate the stress on both sides, such as cooking with your toddler.


A change in your toddler’s normal routine can be a major trigger for any sort of behavioral changes they may experience. These changes could consist of anything from moving, family changes, and changes at school or daycare.

Even little changes can affect a toddler that thrives in routine. Changing up a bedtime routine, could be a huge factor in difficult toddler temperament.


Even if your child isn’t showing any outward signs or symptoms of being sick, their body can still be trying to fight something off. If this is the case, they will not feel like they are on top of their game.

Sickness can do a number on the body. While your child may seem like they are physically feeling better their body will take a bit longer to catch up and fully repair itself.

Either of these options can mean that your child will be more irritable and harder to reason with, making it feel like they are being more difficult.

They Don’t Feel Like Doing It

I have to stop and remind myself that my toddler just might not feel like doing what I am trying to get him to do. From the time they wake up until the time they go to bed many of the decisions during the day are made from them. However, toddlers are learning what they like and dislike and what they want (or don’t want) to do. While we have one agenda they may not be up for what we want them to do.

I take these moments and use them as teachable moments. I take the time to talk to my toddler about how it is great that he knows how he feels about it but, sometimes even grown-ups have to do things they don’t want to do.

Sometimes it is hard to grasp that toddlers are in some ways, little adults. They are beginning to insert their independence. Plus, they are beginning to realize they have their own thoughts and feelings. Thus, leading them into trying to make their own decisions which are easily construed by us adults as being difficult.

What steps do you want to take in reducing difficult toddler temperament while raising a spirited toddler? Comment below!


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