The Crazy Things That Toddlers Do (cont.)

"He was a combination of a leprechaun and a Tasmanian devil," she recalls. "Once in awhile he'd just stop what he was doing and run in circles screaming at the top of his lungs and then go back to whatever he was doing. He knows he's pushing you to the limit."

Toddler Social Development: The Antics Are Normal

That's because toddlers are like cavemen, says Harvey Karp, MD, a pediatrician and author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block. He also has a DVD of the same name. "They spit and scratch when they are angry," he says. "They pee in the living room. They pick their nose. They put food in their hair. They'll suddenly shriek out of nowhere even in a crowded place."

Toddlers live in the right side of the brain, says Karp, which is the impulsive, emotional, and nonverbal side; the left side is the impulse-control center.

"All of us shut off our left brain when we get upset," he says. "We become less eloquent, less patient, less logical. We call that 'going ape.' Toddlers start out 'ape,' and when they get upset, they really go Jurassic on you. They turn into these primitive little cavemen."

Toddler Behavior: Seeing the Kid's Point of View

"Children don't have the same bodily shame that we do about things like picking their nose and looking down their pants," says Rahil Briggs, PsyD, an infant-toddler psychologist at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City.

"There's no superego inside of them, saying, 'Don't pick your nose. That looks funny to outsiders,'" she says. "Instead, there is this enormously powerful sense of curiosity and exploration."

Jennifer Cilione in Baldwin Harbor, N.Y., can relate to the explorer-at-heart idea because she never knows where she might discover her 2-year-old son, Chase.

"I am finding him in the craziest places at home," she says. "The washing machine, kitchen sink, bathroom sink, the dryer. He is extremely fast, so I could turn my back for one moment and find him climbing into somewhere."

He also loves to vacuum, she adds. "The last time I found him with my vacuum, he had ripped his diaper off and was in the nude. Honestly, I had to laugh. These kids are too funny!"

He Just Did What?

Allison Ellis, owner of Hopscotch Consulting in Seattle, admits that her son, Wilson, who is nearly 2, acts like a "dirty old man."

He pinches her nipples in public, slaps her bare bottom while she is getting dressed, and chases after his older sister and other toddler-age girls with an open mouth, followed by a licking attack.

"Right around my son's 18-month checkup, my pediatrician said, 'Be aware of willful behavior,'" she says. "At the time, I thought, 'Who, my son? He's such a sweet, docile kid.' And then, I'm not kidding, maybe a few days later my son started acting out a bit and testing limits."