Combating Bad Behavior in Toddlers

The ‘terrible twos’ is a well known toddler phenomenon known to parent and innocent bystander alike. It is as if a switch flips in the little darling’s brain – suddenly there are tantrums and whining, the word “no” becomes the word of the day-everyday! Whatever good behavior there was goes right out the window. Unfortunately, the terrible twos is a natural stage of development, when a toddler begins really exploring their world and their boundaries for the first time. “Combating” doesn’t seem as efficient a strategy as surviving and perhaps, molding.

Clear Boundaries
As soon as a child begins interacting with their world on their own, they need clear boundaries. Keep things simple, and at their level. Understand that they have a need to explore, and help them do it safely.

Repetition
Better behavior will not come easily or quickly. Do not assume that a child will stop pulling the pots out of the cupboard just because you say “no” once – you will have to say it over and over and over again.

Consistency
Don’t allow a child to get away with something one day, and then punish them the next. By the same token, don’t allow them to behave badly at home then insist on perfect behavior in public. Insist on mealtime manners and calm behavior early and at home.

Reward/Discipline
Reward good behavior and discipline bad behavior. Rewards include praise, special treats, extra privileges – discipline can be a time-out or just simply ignoring bad behavior. Discipline should never, NEVER be in anger.

Children want our attention and our approval, but if it’s the only option, negative attention is fine too. Avoid their quest for negative attention, by rewarding them with positive attention when it is deserved.

Realistic Expectations
Toddlers are children, not miniature adults. They need reminders, they need guidance and they need monitoring. Don’t expect them to behave perfectly when you leave a room, just because you told them too – they will see your absence as an opportunity to expand their horizons.

Exposure
Make sure toddlers are exposed to a variety of situations – playing with other children, traveling, behaving well in public places, sitting quietly when necessary, meeting new people and so on. Don’t wait until a critical event to test your child’s ability to behave. A wedding or a funeral wouldn’t be the best time to test whether they can sitting quietly for an hour or two.

Everyone is impressed with a well behaved child and dismayed with children that are less than well behaved. And although we all joke about the ‘terrible-twos’, it isn’t much fun for anyone if the child’s exuberance is left to run out of control. Set some basic ground rules, be consistent and stick with it – you can have that impressive child too…