Behavior Problems in Toddler Boys

The toddler years are full of both joys and challenges. Your sweet baby has turned into an active little one, joyfully hugging and kissing you one moment and kicking and screaming in the throes of a tantrum the next. Having a toddler boy with his seemingly endless energy and fearless behavior presents unique challenges that take patience and awareness to work through.

Short Attention Span

While toddlers aren't exactly known for their ability to focus on one task for any great length of time, Troy L. Parrish -- a therapist in Maryland who works with children who have behavioral problems -- warns that toddler boys have an especially difficult time focusing. So if your little guy doesn't stand a chance of making it through story time at the library -- let alone an outing to the movie theater -- without acting up, rest assured that this is a typical behavioral challenge for boys.


The American Academy of Pediatrics states that boys need opportunities to show physical expression, which is likely one of the reasons they enjoy wrestling and roughhousing 1. This can become a problem, however, when it leads to aggressive behavior towards you or your son's peers. The AAP points out that nearly every culture that has been studied shows that boys are naturally more aggressive than girls. Encourage your toddler to use this energy by running around on the playground, rather than engaging in conflict with his peers.

Risky Business

In an excerpt from his book "Bringing Up Boys," Dr. James Dobson warns that boys are often more fearless than girls and often begin engaging in risky behaviors during their toddler years. Perhaps your toddler who can barely walk isn't afraid to climb to the tallest slide on the playground as soon as you turn your back, or maybe you have to physically restrain him from jumping into the deep end of your neighborhood pool. Canadian psychologist and professor Barbara Morrongiello believes that boys are willing to take a risk as long as they feel the danger is worth the risk -- and your little man likely thinks that the thrill of going down the tallest slide at the playground is worth it 1.

Trouble Following Directions

If you aren't having much luck getting your toddler boy to follow directions, you are not alone. Clinical psychologist Dr. Robin Alter says that words don't mean much to busy boys -- and if you want them to listen to you, you'll need to take action. Behavior and chore charts may command his attention in a way that your words don't, as they help him to visualize your expectations and allow him to physically place a sticker or magnet on the chart to correspond with good behavior or a completed chore.