Managing Your Toddler's Frustrating Behaviors
Toddlers do not have the skills yet to manage their behavior. It is normal for them to have tantrums. This behavior often develops out of frustration from not being able to communicate, master skills, and be as independent as they want to be.
You can try the following strategies to help manage your toddler's challenging behavior:
- Minimize conflicts as much as possible.
For example, put things your toddler shouldn't touch out of reach. Try to prepare toddlers in advance for circumstances they may not like, such as, "We are going to put away the toys soon."
- Choose your battles.
Focus on the most important, like making sure car seats are used and bedtimes followed.
- Set limits but have realistic expectations.
It generally is considered too early to start disciplinary measures such as time-outs. Other strategies can help teach your child limits, such as using a firm voice, looking your child in the eye, and sometimes physically removing your child from a situation. But realize that your child's behavior has a purpose in furthering growth and development: Your toddler is simply trying to make sense of the world.
- Offer limited choices.
For example, instead of asking, "What do you want for lunch?" limit options by asking, "Do you want banana or apples slices with your lunch?" This works well at the dinner table or the play table and gives your toddler a sense of independence.
- Compliment your child for good behavior.
Approval helps your child learn proper behavior and reinforces a positive sense of self.
- Provide opportunities for your toddler to interact with others.
When these interactions are positive, children learn that they have behaved in acceptable ways and become more self-confident.
- Model behavior that you expect.
One of the most important parenting tools to use with your toddler—indeed, with children of any age—is modeling behavior that you expect. Children learn from what you tell them. And they learn even more from what they see you do. Interacting with others in a loving, open manner and dealing with frustrations calmly will give your toddler the best model to learn from.
Although you may sometimes feel exhausted, remember to reassure toddlers that you love them and it's their behavior you don't like, not them.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics