My Toddler Pulls Me to What He Wants – What to  Do?

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

As a parent of a little boy, I feel like my toddler pulls me to what he wants all the time. 

My kid has a knack for tugging on my clothes and dragging me across the room to show something he wants. While it can be adorable and heartwarming, it can also be overwhelming and challenging to manage.

In this article, I’ll share my insights and experiences on why toddlers pull constantly. I’ll also help you to address this behavior in a positive and effective way.

So let’s dive in and explore the wonderful world of toddlerhood together!

Why Toddlers Pull Parents to What They Want

When my little one was yanking on my arm all the time, it was a bit frustrating, but I knew it’s just how toddlers are. 

They’re trying to figure out how to communicate the right way. So that’s why they’ll often resort to pulling on your hand or clothes to show you what they want. 

Is Hand Pulling in Toddlers Normal?

Trust me, it’s normal. When my kiddo was still a wee one, he was in the stage of wanting to explore the world around him. But at the same time, he wanted to feel safe. 

So he’d pulled on my hand to make sure I was there to protect him. It got on my nerves sometimes, but It was kinda sweet!

According to many child development experts, hand pulling is a common behavior. It can actually show that the child has a healthy attachment with their caregiver. 

But it’s important for parents to teach their little ones how to communicate their needs better.

Factors that Contribute to Pulling Behavior

From my experience, there are a few things that can make a toddler start yanking on your hand:

Anger or frustration 

If kids want something, but can’t have it, they can get really upset. So, pulling on your hand is just their unique way to show you that they’re sad, unsatisfied, or having a problem. 

Lack of Language Skills

When my little one was still learning how to talk, he’d often just pull on my arm to show me what he wanted.

Attention-Seeking

Toddlers love attention, plain and simple. Sometimes, they’ll pull on your arm to get a little extra love and affection.

Emotional Distress

When my kiddo got scared or upset, he’d pull on my arm for some extra comfort.

Implications of Toddler’s Pulling Behavior

Your parent’s role is to understand the implications of your toddler’s pulling behavior. 

While it may seem harmless at first, it can actually have a significant impact on your child’s emotional well-being. It will also influence your relationship and bond.

Keep reading to understand what I’m talking about.

Impacting Parent-Child Relationship

Let me share my personal experience with you. I’ve noticed that when my little boy pulls on my hand constantly, it can start to put a strain on our relationship. 

Basically, it can create a power dynamic where the child feels like they need to pull on the parent to get what they want. Ultimately, the parent feels like they’re being dragged around all the time.

Leading to Tantrums and Emotional Outbursts

Another implication of a toddler’s pulling behavior is that it can lead to tantrums. 

Moreover, it can also lead to emotional outbursts. When a child feels like they’re not being heard, they can become frustrated and upset. 

Again, from my experience, you have to address the pulling behavior early on. That’s the only way to prevent it from escalating to this point. Otherwise, you could find yourself dealing with frequent tantrums and meltdowns. And at the end of the day, this can be exhausting for both you and your child.

How to Stop Toddlers from Hand-Pulling?

Toddlers often exhibit behaviors (including hand pulling) that can be challenging. I had a tough time with my son until I did some research and decided to take some crucial steps.

As stated earlier, hand-pulling is a form of communication, but it can become a routine that can be frustrating for everyone to deal with. 

The first step is to teach them more effective communication skills. I know it sounds challenging, but it’s pretty easy and straightforward.

That’s why, instead of panicking, we all have to focus on teaching toddlers a better and easier way to communicate. In this way, we’ll reduce their need for hand pulling.

Let’s learn what to do!

Managing pulling behavior in a positive way

To start with this process, you have to pull behavior in a positive way. That’s how you’ll encourage the desired behavior in your kid. 

One way to do this is through positive reinforcement. Kids love the rewards so much! 

So, when a toddler communicates their needs and desires in a positive way, praise and reward them to encourage the behavior. Use candies, little toys or some games your child loves!

Validating Toddler’s Feelings and Desires

Always, but always validate your child’s feelings and desires. You can achieve this by empathizing with their emotions while also setting clear expectations. Parents or anyone who’s taking care of a child can help toddlers learn to express their emotions healthily.

Here are some examples of validating a child’s feelings and desires:

  • “I know you really want to play with that toy, but we have to take turns and share with others. Let’s play with something else while we wait, okay?”
  • “It’s okay to feel angry sometimes, but it’s not okay to hurt others. Let’s take a break together and talk about what’s bothering you.”
  • “I understand that you’re not in the mood for a bath, but we have to keep our bodies clean and healthy. How about this – let’s make it more fun by singing songs or playing with some bath toys?”

Setting Limits and Boundaries for Toddlers

Toddlers need clear and consistent boundaries to feel safe and secure. It’s important for parents and caregivers to set limits that are age-appropriate and reasonable. 

Here are some tips for setting effective limits and boundaries:

Be Clear and Consistent

Use clear and simple language to communicate your expectations. Also, make sure to consistently enforce the boundaries you set.

This helps toddlers understand what is expected of them and what behavior is not acceptable.

Be Firm But Kind

It’s important to be firm in enforcing boundaries, but also to do so with kindness and empathy. This helps toddlers feel supported and respected, even when they are being corrected or redirected.

Offer Choices

Whenever possible, offer toddlers choices within the boundaries you have set. This helps them feel more in control and can reduce resistance to following rules.

Teaching Toddlers Patience and Delayed Gratification

Teaching toddlers patience and delayed gratification is not the easiest step. But it can help them learn to communicate their needs in a positive way.

How? Well, try to create opportunities for them to practice waiting and providing enough repetition to help them learn. It might be challenging at the beginning but it’s worth a try.

Use the games and activities that require patience and waiting to help toddlers learn these skills. Don’t give up quickly. Don’t get mad if your child starts screaming or crying. It’s all a normal part of this process.

FAQ

Is Hand Pulling a Sign of Autism?

Hand pulling is not a definitive sign of autism on its own. But, repetitive behaviors including hand flapping, hand wringing, or hand twisting can be indicative of autism. You especially have to pay attention to these if they are performed frequently. 

On the other hand, you can also see these behaviors in other conditions or just a normal part of development. If you have concerns about your child’s behavior, the only right thing you can do is to consult with a doctor to get a proper evaluation.

What Are Signs of Toddler’s Autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. The signs of autism in toddlers can vary, but some common ones include:

  • Lack of eye contact or social reciprocity
  • Delayed or absent speech
  • Repetitive behaviors or interests
  • Resistance to change in routine or surroundings
  • Unusual sensory responses, such as sensitivity to certain sounds or textures
  • Lack of interest in peer interactions or play
  • Delayed or atypical motor development
  • Unusual play with toys, such as lining them up or focusing on one part

What Are Red Flags for a Toddler’s Behavior?

Red flags for toddler’s behavior are behaviors or developmental milestones that are significantly delayed or outside the typical range for their age. Some red flags for toddler’s behavior include:

  • Lack of response to their name
  • Limited or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in others, including parents or peers
  • Delayed or absent speech
  • Loss of language or social skills
  • Repetitive behaviors, such as hand flapping or rocking
  • Fixation on certain objects or interests
  • Unusual or intense reactions to sensory experiences, such as being overly sensitive to touch or sound

According to a discussion on Reddit, hand leading is not necessarily a red flag for developmental delays or autism. But it can be an indicator of delayed social communication skills. 

Parents and caregivers should be aware of the behavior and seek professional evaluation. Keep in mind that every child develops at their own pace, so you can expect different behaviors from the children of the same age.

Conclusion

And that’s it, dear parents! As I told you earlier, my toddler pulls me to what he wants for almost everything. But we’re progressing every day thanks to these amazing tips I shared with you in this article.

With a bit of effort and patience, I’m sure your kid will also develop some great communication skills.

Good luck and until next time!

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

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