11 Ways to Improve Toddler Behavior

11 Tips to Improve Toddler Behavior

The toddler stage is full of discovery, learning, and attempts at independence. And sometimes, there are tantrums or other less than desirable behaviors. What can you do to encourage the positive behaviors and discourage the negative ones? Here are 11 tips to improve toddler behavior.

  • Give plenty of love, attention, and praise. My son says, “Fill up my love tank, Momma,” when he wakes every morning. What a great way to start the day. When children get love and positive attention from you, they don’t feel the need to act out as much.
  • Snacks. Toddlers (and children) have small stomachs and need to eat more frequently. Make sure you have healthy snacks available for your child, as well as healthy meals so that you don’t wind up with a hungry, and therefore cranky, toddler. 
  • Model. Model behavior that you’d like to see in your child by acting that way with your child and others. Use good manners when talking to your child and others. If you need something from your child, say please and thank you. It’s so easy to overlook using manners with our children, but it is such a great learning opportunity for your child. 
  • Point out and praise. Point out when your child or another child is behaving well and explain what you see. For instance, you can say, “John shared a toy with Andrew. That was very kind.”  Point out when adults are exhibiting good behaviors too to show that adults have to use manners and be kind to one another as well. And point out and praise when your child is showing good behavior and using manners. Saying, “Good job saying thank you,” encourages more of the same behavior. Make sure your praise is specific and positive.
  • Give the gift of words. Help your child articulate how he feels by using descriptive words. Use words to express how you feel too. Being able to use words can help to prevent a tantrum.
  • Make it fun/make it a game. Cleaning isn’t fun for most people. But dancing around while cleaning or singing your own made-up cleaning song while cleaning adds fun to the chore. Or set a timer and see who can clean the most in a set amount of time.
  • Keep it positive. Instead of yelling, “Stop hitting,” you could say, “Let’s use gentle touches on the cat,” while modeling gentle touch on the cat. This gives the child positive instruction and a visual to go with it rather than just telling the child what not to do.
  • Give choices when you can. Let your child pick his shirt for the day, or let him pick from three shirts that match the shorts he already put on. Find ways to foster making choices and encouraging independence when possible.
  • Stick to a schedule. What’s your child’s schedule like? Consider it when picking a time to grocery shop. Have errands to run? Make sure you bring a snack along if you’ll be on the road when your child normally snacks.
  • Minimize rules. Stick to rules related to safety, and keep them to a minimum by childproofing and by eliminating temptations. Add rules as needed.
  • Enforce consequences when needed.
    • Let natural consequences happen. Let your child endure the natural consequence of an action (as long as it doesn’t put anyone in danger). For instance, you’ve asked him to stop throwing his favorite dinosaur. He doesn’t stop, and the dinosaur roar mechanism breaks. This natural consequence of throwing the toy will teach more than you continuing to repeat, “Don’t throw your dinosaur.”
    • Logical consequence. Let the punishment fit the crime. If your child dumped the bath toys on the bathroom floor to play with and now refuses to pick them up or help to pick them up, explain that if he doesn’t help, you will put away the toys and they won’t be available for the next bath. If needed, follow through with your consequence.
    • Take away privileges. A long bath with toys sounds wonderful to most toddlers. If your child decides to pour water out of the tub, tell him he will get out if he does it again. If he does it again, remove him immediately from the tub. If he wants the privilege of a long toy-filled bath, he will learn not to pour the water out.
    • Time out. When your child behaves poorly, give a warning. If the poor behavior does not stop, a time out in a designated time out spot is appropriate. A safe spot where your child will not easily be distracted nor receive attention from other children or adults is best for a time out spot. You want to be able to easily see your child without him making eye contact with you.

    Toddlers have a lot to learn, and they are learning most of it from you. Learning to deal with the ups and downs of toddler behavior gives you the skills necessary to be a wonderful parent, teacher, and mentor.