So, your toddler is at that age where everything is either “no” or “mine”!
Anything that is NOT theirs, they want!
Anything that IS theirs, they bounce off the floor or stand on!
You might even find them grabbing at anything and everything? (If this sounds about right, check out my article on how to stop your toddler grabbing everything!)
I think it’s time for some toddler behaviour management! Don’t you?…
Through my 10 years of working with children aged 1-19 in Schools, Nurseries and Youth Clubs, and now my own child, I have had training and experience in a HUGE range of tools to use when disciplining or enforcing positive behaviour in children!
So, if you are getting to the end of your tether and are wondering how the hell you’re supposed to get your child to actually listen to you, keep reading.
Here are my own methods that I have used. Persistence is key!
If you fancy a longer read, Jo Frost has this awesome book all about how to create rules that stick for toddlers.
1. Use Effective Praise
What would you rather hear at work? “Thanks Sarah.” or “Thanks Sarah. You were really helpful putting all the instruments back. I really appreciate it!”?
I know which one I would prefer!
Giving vague praise doesn’t show your interest and can sometimes seem forced – or as if you don’t mean it.
If you provide a reason for why you think they have done well, children are more likely to repeat that behaviour, because they actually know what they have done well and will want to hear that praise again!
2. Use Simple and Direct commands
Don’t say “Pick up your book and put it in the bookcase.”
Instead, try, “Pick up your book”.
Once they have done that, then say, “Put your book in the bookcase”.
Overloading children with too many commands will lead them to either do it wrong or just not do it at all. Children work better with more direct and simple instructions than lengthy wordy ones.
Having a short attention span is actually very normal in young children. There are some fabulous children’s books to help your child to learn how to focus better.
3. Focus on the Positives
One of the most powerful tools in Behaviour Management is POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.
All children would prefer to get a “well done” than a telling off! There are many ways you can say “no” to your child without actually saying the word, “no!”.
CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE CHEAT SHEET: 24 WAYS TO SAY “NO” WITHOUT SAYING “NO!”
For younger toddlers:
Every time your toddler does something good, be sure to praise them for it. However, be sure to differentiate your praising.
For example, they should already be able to follow a simple instruction like putting their bricks away.
This kind of praise is a, “Thank you for putting your bricks away. Well done!”.
If they then go and put other toys away without your asking, you can be a bit more dramatic with a, “Yay! Such a good boy/girl for putting your books away. Ohh, give mummy a cuddle. Well done!”
For older toddlers:
If a child has thrown a grump because they have to share their toys or play with other children, praise them for being grown-up enough to be able to verbalise their feelings in the first place.
Explain that, although this situation might not be what they want right now, you can see that they are capable of behaving in the right way.
Suggest that they do this activity to show you more of that positive behaviour. You might even want to use a Reward Chart and give them a treat after they have reached a certain number of “stars” etc.
If you want to use a reward chart that is a bit more fancy, you can get a pre-made visual behaviour chart. I personally LOVE this one, as it comes with magnetic stars, activities and even magnetic backing (so you can just stick it to your fridge!)
This is also great for 1-4 children, so if you have a growing family, you can include all your children in this child behaviour reward system.
4. “Thank you”, not “Please”
Ok, so this one took me quite a long time to get my head around, because I strongly believe that “please” is a very important word for us to teach our children. However, in the World of Behaviour Management, “please” is ASKING for something…but we don’t want to ask – we want to TELL.
“Thank you” implies that the child will do the thing that we are asking of them.
Instead of saying, “Pick up your book please”, say “Pick up your book. Thank you.”
They are then already subconsciously thinking in a different way about your command – and it IS just that – a command, not a request.
5. Provide the Opportunity for Positive Behaviour
If you ask your child or toddler for help, they will almost always oblige! Every child wants to please – especially if it’s to please their parents!
If you don’t give them a chance to do anything positive, how will they know how to do it?
Ok, you can model good behaviour – that’s a biggie! But what else can they do to show you they can “be good”?
Ask them to share their toys, say please and thank you – and also ask them to help you clean up, do the washing up or clean their bedroom etc.
Maybe even create a “Chore Chart” as a reminder for you both?
My Weekly Reward Chart (above) would also work here.
Just keeping a child happy and busy keeps them from acting out!
Click HERE to download your FREE list of 40 Fun Things to do With your Toddler!
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6. If you tell them off, make sure they have actually done something wrong!
Very often, we see our toddler do something that seems as if they are doing it on purpose to get a reaction.
After all, why would they hit their toy bricks on the table after you have told them to stop a hundred times, or press the buttons on the TV if they know it turns your fave show off?
Why would they throw their cutlery or food on the floor, knowing it is supposed to be used for dinner?
The answer is simple…they are not doing it to be “naughty”. They are “experimenting”…cause and effect!
They are noticing that the brick makes a noise if they hit it on the table, the TV screen changes if they press a button and food moves away from them if they throw it.
There is a big difference between them experimenting with something and doing something knowing it is wrong.
Sometimes they are just being plain cheeky and trying to test barriers, but most of the time, they are just trying out new things.
Is your toddler regularly in trouble for grabbing everything? There are many simple ways to Stop your Toddler Grabbing Everything in Sight!
7. Show – don’t assume!
If your child tries to climb on top of their toy – don’t just shout at them to get down…move them away. They will eventually get the point!
You don’t even need to speak. If they are reaching for a hot cup of coffee (or tea – your preference), don’t grab them and drag them (you know what I mean) away to the other side of the room.
Just give them their own sippy cup instead and tell them that your cup is “mummy’s” and their cup is “kiddo’s name”.
One big mistake that most parents make (including myself) is assuming that a child knows what we are talking about.
We must remember that they are learning an entirely new language and simply just might not understand “Don’t touch my cup. It’s hot!”
This post by the ‘Child Care Resource Centre’ is REALLY handy and tells you what kids should know at what age (remember, these are just rough though…not all children will develop at the same rates!)
8. Make it their Choice
“You can either put your toys away or put the laundry in the washer.” sounds much better to a child than “Put your toys away”.
Or even better…have a list of a few things that they can choose from.
This (very cheap!) activity book for behaviour is fantastic for positively introducing rules, tasks and chores into your child’s life:
If your child feels they have more control over their own behaviour, they are more likely to behave appropriately and grow more independent.
If they are constantly told what to do and have no choices given to them, how are they supposed to grow their independence?
It also shows the child that you value their opinion and respect them enough to let them choose themselves.
With younger children, you can model to them: You put some toys away and then put some crayons away…your child will eventually waddle over and choose which one they want to help you with.
9. Consequences need to be Immediate
Children need to know that the consequences for their actions will come immediately.
Why do you think we hold detentions on the same day after School?
If their behaviour is really bad in a lesson, we will “remove” the child from the class – this can be in the form of a “naught step or naughty chair” at home.
If you leave it until another day (or even later in the day), they will simply forget why they were in trouble in the first place…and you might even do the same!
Punishing them straight away also shows them that you are consistent and stick to your word. If you leave it too long, they might repeat the behaviour and you haven’t even punished them for the first time!
They have then “got away” with their negative behaviour and will try it again.
10. Don’t try to Stop a Tantrum
A child only throws a tantrum because they have no other way of expressing themselves at that particular moment in time.
If they are old enough to talk well enough to express their feelings, try to ask them what is wrong.
If they are too young to talk or just don’t want to reply, just let them throw their tantrum while you run through what might be wrong in your head (think of the basics – food, water, nappy/needs toilet, sleep, bored, over-excited…you know the stuff).
Most children are able to self-correct their behaviour and will eventually calm themselves down. If they are unable to calm themselves down, or you feel that their meltdowns are becoming too interrupting to their daily lives, read this post on how to calm an angry child or toddler!
As tempting as it is, if you start getting flustered or attempt to pick them up etc., they will just get more extreme with their behaviour because they are still not getting what they want…we all know the struggle of trying to pick up a floppy tantrum-throwing child!!
If their tantrum is purely because they can’t get what they want…they will eventually learn by your simply allowing them to throw their tantrum (and express their emotions) – because they STILL won’t get that toy (or whatever it is) that they want!
NEVER allow yourself to get pulled into an argument with your child…they will almost always win!