Parents of toddlers know how frustrating it is to get small children to behave. At the same time, most parents want to teach their toddlers how to behave in a positive way, an often difficult task in the heat of the moment. Positive behavior techniques allow you to control undesired behaviors while also validating your child’s frustration with the situation and teaching him good alternatives. If behavioral issues continue and you’re concerned, contact your child’s pediatrician.
Set Clear Expectations
If you don’t tell your toddler what you expect from her, she won’t know how to behave appropriately. Your expectations need to be consistent, or your toddler may get confused. Clearly, you can’t just sit your toddler down and read her a long list of house rules. However, when she does something wrong, taking time to tell her that the behavior is unacceptable sets clear guidelines regarding future incidents. For example, if she pushes her sister down, tell her that pushing isn’t allowed even when she is angry or frustrated. Then tell her what is acceptable, such as using her words to express her anger or coming to a parent for help.
Many parents resort to yelling when a stubborn toddler is refusing to do what he’s told. Loud voices can scare small children, and after a while, they may tune you out when you scream. However, verbal guidance is an effective way to remind your toddler of the rules when he isn’t following them. For example, if you want him to walk down the street and he’s running, simply tell him to walk, rather than telling him to stop running. Or remind him to sit in the bathtub rather than telling him to stop standing. This emphasizes the behavior you want to see and takes the focus off the bad behavior.
Reward Good Behavior
Most toddlers want to please their parents, making rewards for desired behaviors especially beneficial for reinforcing what you want your toddler to do. When you see your child doing what you asked, praise her and offer a small prize, such as a sticker. This makes her feel good and want to continue doing the right thing. Rewarding good behavior is often more beneficial than punishing a child for bad behavior because your toddler begins to understand that behaving makes her feel good about herself, while getting into trouble makes her feel bad. This technique also works well if you catch your child doing something good, such as sharing with a friend.
During toddlerhood, children begin to show and exert their independence. Giving your toddler choices offers some control over his behavior and allows him the opportunity to behave. For example, if it is time to clean up, ask your toddler which toy he wants to put away first, offering two choices. Inevitably, he’ll chose one and begin to put it where it belongs. This technique prevents you from yelling or punishing when your toddler refuses to pick up his mess.