Understanding Why Your Toddler Is So Moody

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toddler discipline, toddler behavior, toddler tantrums, toddler hacks

Kids are great, aren’t they? One day you’re getting up and getting ready for work without distractions, and the next you’re arguing with a miniature version of yourself about putting their socks on. It’s exhausting to parents of toddlers. The defiance and fierce independence that they display is wonderful. Exhaustingly wonderful.

Toddlers, on the whole, are harder to deal with than newborn babies or older children. The toddler years fall into that wonderful stage between having very basic needs, and the stage of being able to articulate what they want from you. The only problem with this is that the toddler years often do not come with speech – which means they communicate their needs by crying, yelling and throwing tantrums.

There are a lot of reasons for toddlers to be moody. Their emotions swing from hysterical laughter to crying in a second, and it can be very tiring trying to keep up with them and their mixed emotions.

If you’ve created a perfect sleep space, with the perfect bed and followed Amerisleep Liberty reviews for the right, most supportive mattress, then you can’t blame their mood on their lack of sleep. Sure, not all toddlers are sleeping through the night, but that doesn’t always affect their mood. However, there are some other valid reasons that your toddler is flipping out – even if you don’t understand them all.


The world is a huge, fascinating place that is constantly changing and for your toddler, that can be overwhelming. Without proper speech, it can be very difficult for them to articulate to you what it is they want. They then get frustrated very quickly and start shrieking.

Some parents invest in mood cards and activity cards with pictures and direct their toddler to the cards to help them point out what it is that they want.

Delayed Gratification

Toddlers want your attention and they want that attention NOW. Not in two minutes, not when you have your hands free and not when you have a moment – NOW. They have no concept of time, so the idea that your toddler can understand the phrase ‘in a minute’ is laughable.

Distraction works great here, as they have no idea how to manage their emotions quick enough. Change their attitude with toys or even bubbles, and you can avoid a tantrum.


Toddlers do not like change. They like routines and regular meals and they like to understand exactly what comes next. If you aren’t able to keep up with their routine change, you’re going to struggle to keep them from melting down. Give your toddler more than one option to keep them distracted and you can change things up as you like.

Sometimes, no matter how much you try, distraction doesn’t work. Toddlers get frustrated and all the emotions that they are feeling are complicated and difficult for them to manage. Try not to stem their emotional outbursts, just redirect them. You don’t want to teach them that how they feel is wrong, even if it is hard to deal with.

Krystle Cook - the creator of Home Jobs by MOM - put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.


  1. Have not had to deal with a toddler in some time so these ideas are almost new to me. I love the idea of picture cards this seems like a fun way to understand each other and to see what cards they choose

    • Lucky….you’re getting to forget the terror…haha, just kidding. Yes, helping them connect with you at their level is a wonderful way of getting through tiffs.

  2. Reesa Lewandowski says:

    It took a long time (aka: 2nd kid) to finally understand the kids more. To this day, when my kids are hungry they become moody beasts.

    • I know quite a few adults who get moody when hungry as well, ha! I think all of us are better parents, for sure, by the second kid.

  3. I don’t have children, but plan to some day. I will be sure to remember these and hopefully I can prevent a few break downs here and there.

    • You just do the best you can in the moment. I promise you won’t ever get it perfect but having a bit of knowledge beforehand helps a lot.

  4. My kids haven’t been toddlers in a really LONG time, but I am dealing with a lot of the same behaviors now that they are teens!

    • It comes full circle! Isn’t that crazy!??! It will come up again as they get older beyond teens as well.

  5. Ug, I understand why my toddler is moody, I just wish I could explain to him why I’m moody too. Lol. You are so right about change though, we are all about routines at my house.

    • Change is hard for anyone at any age but as little ones, it’s hard for them to understand why the change has to happen. I wish it were easier to communicate with them as well. 😛

  6. Oh yes, “exhaustingly wonderful.” I found with my youngest the choices do not have to be equal, but more than one option is the key. Would you like me to make you some special brussel sprouts or would you like to finish the potatoes on your plate?
    I mean, you might get called on it once in a while, but not very likely!

    • ha! Yes, options make it feel less hopeless although the choices given may not really change the situation. It’s the fact that they feel they have a little more control over the situation.

  7. My aunt is going through this right now with her granddaughter. She has severe separation anxiety when around other adults besides my aunt and the family. Her not liking change is a concern when it comes to getting her ready for daycare or school.

    • Oh yes, those types of children make daycare or starting school a terrible time. However, going to school and daycare will help her break out of that social anxiety.

  8. Communication is so hard with toddlers. I skype my sister every week and it’s interesting to see her kids and how they are doing that week.

    • Kids seem to change moods from second to second. I agree, communication is definitely a barrier when it comes to toddlers.

  9. Shandy Kaye says:

    Thanks for tips and advice it is very helpful for all the moms, especially my mom.

  10. Krystal Butherus says:

    I have to agree that reasoning with a toddler is a tough thing to do.You find yourself wondering if it isn’t better to pick the big battles and let the other ones slide if needed.

  11. I love the idea of mood cards for toddlers. That’s fantastic. It has to be very frustrating when you have needs, but can’t communicate them.

    • I think finding a way to communicate that’s easier for them is necessary through change or the more difficult stages they may go through.

  12. I remember when my son was a toddler.. it was a fun but exhausting age. I agree that changes in the routine make toddlers very moody, I think they prefer a solid schedule.

    • Oh yes, just as most people prefer consistency, kids do too. I don’t blame them, life is definitely easier that way. 😛

  13. These are all great things to keep in mind when I have kids in the future, but I do have a lot of friends with kids and they would enjoy this. Thanks!

  14. I’m lucky enough to not remember how bad the toddler years were. I remember the ages of 4 and 5 being worse between me and my son. Now, I’m going through the moodiness of preteen and teenage years! Distraction doesn’t work as well anymore!

    • They get smarter at averting the things that might fix it, ha! Teen years are the full circle point, in my opinion!

  15. This is great. I have a two year old who is often moody. The tough part is that my first one wasn’t like that, so it had been hard to understand why she is so moody.

    • Each child is different. Some will take things better than others. It’s a guessing game more times than not.

  16. It’s interesting to learn about toddlers as I don’t have much experience with them. However I’m currently pregnant so I’ll be in the same situation in a few years time so this post is very helpful!

    • It won’t be long before you’ll be experiencing this! ha! It’s bad but not as bad as it sounds.

  17. My little guy is quickly approaching the toddler years and I’m already starting to see how they are going to be more difficult than the infant stage. It’s such a guessing game since he can’t articulate exactly what he needs. I think it frustrates us both at times.

    • Bless his heart. It’s definitely frustrating for them since the thoughts are forming but they can’t get them across.

  18. Angela Cardamone @marathonsandmotivation.com says:

    Oh my! I remember those days, so true!! Now, I have a mood tween on my hands!! 🙂

  19. These are some great points!! One of the little kids I babysit is definitely in that moody stage — for me, it’s all about Distraction And Moving On!!

  20. I dont have kids but my niece can be extremely moody. And you are right, she hates change. She likes things to be consistent.

    • I don’t blame her. Change can be so very stressful. As adults we have easier ways of getting through those changes than little ones do.

  21. We go through ups and downs too. Our two year old is generally pretty happy but she has her moody days too!

  22. Brittany Giles says:

    This describes my three year old to the t. Can not wait for 4 I heard it gets better! lol

    • It definitely gets better! The stressful times are almost behind you as far as that age goes. XD

  23. My toddler is such a happy child, but when she wants something and can’t ask for it with words she gets upset and cry! She’s getting better now, so the temper tantrums are less frequent.

    • Glad to hear things are simmering down for you. That’s why it’s the terrible two’s, they’re learning to communicate and it’s frustrating.

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