When I take my 2-year-old daughter out to friends’ homes, she starts doing all kinds of things she would never do at home. I can’t understand why … she knows better. It seems like she’s trying to make me mad.


It’s unlikely that your two-year-old is being naughty just to make you mad. There probably are several reasons for your child’s behavior. Children at the toddler stage aren’t yet able to generalize well from one situation to another. For example, even though you teach your daughter not to play with the knobs on your TV, she may need to be taught that all over again with a new TV in a new place. Also, toddlers’ long-term memory is not well-developed, so they may not remember your instructions from one day or one week to the next.

It is important to remember that little ones can’t control their physical movements the way older children can. They may hit or handle things roughly, not out of bad intentions, but because they can’t move their hands slowly and smoothly. When they’re over-excited, as they often are at a friend’s house, they have even less control– both physically and emotionally. Some of your daughter’s behavior also may be her way of expressing her frustration at not being the focus of your attention while you try to visit with your friend.

When you’re wondering why your daughter is doing things that you’re sure you’ve taught her not to, it’s important to step back and ask, “What’s really going on here? Does she remember what I’ve taught her? Does she know the rule applies even at someone else’s house? Is she feeling unsettled or left out in this new situation?”

Let her know calmly and clearly what you expect of her, make sure she has fun and interesting things to do, let her know you are there for her, and be patient with her. She is growing and learning and, with your gentle encouragement, she will soon become a much more gracious guest.