Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 29, 2024

Learning Curves: Getting Good Behavior from Tots

Your toddler is coming into her own – and how. Still, there are techniques you can use to help her learn what’s OK with you.


fea_hairpulling.pngNow that your baby is a toddler, do you find yourself saying the not-so-magic word of “don’t!” more often than you’d like? It happens to the best of us. Our little ones grow past the age of instant compliance, and suddenly we have a quasi-tyrant on our hands.

But children in their toddler years are struggling in the control department – it’s typical of them to want things their way. Here are several tips from the book, The Secret Lives of Toddlers (Perigree; $12.95), by Jane Murphy to help you help them to mind:

1) Be Specific

With short, easy-to-understand language, tell your tot what’s not acceptable to you, for instance, “We do not bite others because it hurts.” You can also ask your child why she thinks we don’t bite others … it will help her to understand better and also to feel important in the process, which is what she craves.

2) Prepare Them

Toddlers need to know what to expect. Whether going to the grocery store or out to eat, for example, before leaving the house and then again before leaving the car, state what you expect of her by getting down on her level. Say something like, “Stay with me in the store at all times,” or “Inside voices in the restaurant, please.”

3) Say What She CAN Do

If you see her doing something you don’t want her to do, turn it around into what she can do rather than just reprimanding. For instance, say, “You can play with paints here on the table with newspaper beneath; the floor is for walking on …”

4) Pick Your Battles

Research shows that kids who are given too many rules may rebel later in life. Decide what you’re going to be a stickler about and let go of the rest.

5) Be Consistent

Now that you’ve decided what you’re going to be a stickler about, be consistent. If you say “no” about something be sure you don’t bend on it. Toddlers become secure within the limits you set for them. If you waffle on your limit-setting you cannot expect your child to learn what you expect of her.

6) Stay Calm

This may just be the most important (and most difficult) part of parenting a toddler. Staying calm. Being patient. Not “if” but “when” your toddler takes a crayon to your walls, try taking a deep breath and using your calmest, important voice to state your case: “Crayons are for coloring in coloring books or on paper. If you wish to color, please tell me so, and we can fix a place up for you with what you need.”

Susan Day is editorial director for the Day Communications family of publications.

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