"I had it first!"
It's horrifying to find out that your child has bitten or shoved another kid, but the good news is that this is very common behavior, especially among toddlers. At this age kids are easily frustrated, and they can't yet express that frustration with words.
"I was going to say that."
Something is making her feel that she's lost control over a part of her life. It could be a new daycare routine or an extended visit from a family member she's trying to impress, but your child, who is probably naturally chatty anyway, is making up for this lack of control by trying to dominate every conversation, says Tovah Klein, PhD, director of the Barnard Center for Toddler Development, in New York City. Starting school is another major trigger -- kids are often anxious and try to cope by acting like they know everything.
"You can have the red car but not the blue one."
If your child is used to getting his way at home, he may expect to be in charge in every social situation too. "Maybe you haven't been setting limits, which could get him into trouble in preschool," says Virginia M. Shiller, PhD, author of Rewards for Kids! Ready-to-Use Charts and Activities for Positive Parenting.
Your child's personality also plays a role -- he was probably never the timid type to begin with. And if a kid with a need to lead is faced with a big life change, he may cope by turning into a bossy loudmouth. "Kids thrive on predictability, and some need more control than others," says Dr. Klein. "So if they feel unsettled, they'll try to regain some order by controlling everyone around them."
"Look what I can do!"
This desperate need for attention may be a response to your child's sense that she's not getting enough one-on-one time with you. Perhaps a dominant older sibling is hogging the spotlight, and she's trying to compete. Or you're showering her with so much over-the-top praise that she expects that level of fawning from everyone. "Kids going through this phase are searching for outside reinforcement," says Dr. Klein. "They're not comfortable doing something just because it makes them happy -- they need adults to say, 'That was fabulous.'"
"Me hungry. Feed me."
Whether he's walking around clutching the lovey he ditched months ago or has forgotten all of his potty skills, the message he's sending is, "I need you." A major upheaval -- the most common being a brand-new sibling -- is likely behind your child's regression. "He'll want to sleep in the crib and suck on a pacifier because the baby, who's doing these things, is getting a lot of attention," says Lawrence Balter, PhD, a professor of applied psychology at New York University. It's also possible that a new challenge, such as starting preschool, is behind this sudden regression. Acting like a baby is a natural response to a situation that feels adult and scary.
"Yeah, you can have it."
Your child may need lessons in the art of negotiating, especially if she's your oldest or an only child. "Only kids never had to deal with siblings," says Dr. Klein. "And firstborns may be overly dependent on their parents, so they look to them to intervene." If you've hovered over your child, she may not feel comfortable standing up to others -- and she won't know what to do when a kid demands that she hand over the purple crayon.
You may also just have a shy child who feels intimidated by the Donald Trumps in her class. "She'll naturally be nervous about asking a controlling kid for her crayon back," says Dr. Shiller. "Or maybe she'll try weakly and won't get the response she wants, so she'll shut down."