Say what you mean

There’s not always a right or wrong way of doing things, but what all toddlers need is structure and boundaries to make them feel safe and secure.

As your toddler grows more independent, they will begin to test the limits of what they can and can’t do. Tough though it may be – for you both – this stage is an essential part of learning and adjusting to social situations. By allowing your child to develop in this way, you’ll help them to discover new abilities, but also that what they want to do may sometimes be unsafe, and could also hurt or upset other people.

The boundaries you create are vital to helping your kids feel safe and make the world seem more certain and easier to understand. No child can feel confident if they have unlimited freedom or responsibility. Having said that, they will test the boundaries you set. This is the way they begin to understand themselves and the world – which you may find challenging. While there isn’t one right way to go about things – every parent and child and every family is different – there are a few tried and tested tricks that can help make it easier to deal with your toddler’s behaviour.

Be clear about your rules

Each family has its own rules – often unspoken – about what is acceptable, so the first step in helping your child to behave well is to decide on yours. Then make sure your child knows what they are and remind them often.

Be consistent

Conflict can arise when parents, and others who care for your child, follow different sets of rules, so make sure everyone concerned knows what is expected of them. The same applies if you allow your tot to do something one day and then tell them off for doing the same thing the next. When you say ‘No’ make sure you mean it.

Expect them to behave well

Although it may not always seem like it, children love to please their parents. If you expect your child to behave badly, chances are they will. However, if they know that you expect them to behave well, they’re much more likely to try to please.

Be realistic

You can’t expect a toddler to know that the ornament you left within arm’s reach isn’t a toy to bang on the floor.
Think ahead to avoid such problems. Put things you don’t want them to touch out of temptation’s way.

Try saying yes

How many times have you said no today? Always being refused can lead to a build-up of frustration. Next time your toddler asks you a question, consider answering yes instead. For example, ‘Yes, you can do it tomorrow,’ or, ‘Yes, after we’ve been shopping.’

Be clear and specific

Make sure that your little one understands exactly what they are being asked to do. Instead of saying, ‘Please can you tidy up now,’ try, ‘Pick up your books and put them on the shelf now, please.’ If there’s no choice about something, don’t confuse things by letting them think they can decide. Instead of saying, ‘Do you want to have your bath now?’, say, ‘Now it’s bath time.’

Actions speak louder than words

If your tot does something against the rules, show them what they could have done instead. So if they draw on the wall, show them that the correct place to draw is on paper or on a blackboard. And if they get in a mess let them make amends by helping you to clear it up.

Last updated: 9 April 2019