Learn ways to respond to your toddler's challenging behavior.

Scolding a Toddler

by Erica Loop

The infamous toddler scolding: almost every mom has done it or overheard it. Whether your toddler just shattered your favorite vase during an in-house trike ride or won't stop whining, scolding is often a go-to form of verbal discipline. However, it's effectiveness is questionable.

1. Toddler Behaviors

For the most part, moms don't scold their toddlers without a reason. Scolding is typically the result of bad or, more politely put, challenging behaviors. According to the national child development organization Zero to Three, toddlers are beginning to act independently and assert themselves. While this is certainly a positive step, it can also cause problems. Because 2- and 3-year-olds have little self-control, they often assert their independence at inopportune times. For example, you say, "Time to leave the park," and your toddler responds with a screaming, "No!" These types of behaviors, as well as others such as tantrums and whining, can make any mom jump to scold.

2. Shame and Scolding

Scolding is usually meant to stop poor or challenging behaviors immediately. While putting an end the behavior is the intention, sometimes scolding can turn into shaming. The goal of scolding isn't to make your toddler feel as though he is bad. Instead, it is to make him understand that what he is doing is inappropriate, dangerous or simply unacceptable. For example, your toddler grabs a toy out of her sister's hands. You scold her for this action. She stops, but instead of just stopping, she looks downwards sadly in a very ashamed way. Should she stop grabbing things from her sister? Yes. Does she need to feel bad about herself for doing this? No.

3. Talking It Out

Some mothers feel scolding is an inappropriate, or mean, form of discipline for a young toddler. Given that most toddlers don't have the ability to control some challenging behaviors and are just starting to navigate the world around them, many adults believe children of this age need a more gentle approach. Instead of being quick to scold, parents who choose not to use this approach can try a more conversational tone. This includes talking about the child's feelings and what is making him act out, whine or do whatever he is doing that is causing a problem. Validate the child's emotions and say something such as, "I understand that you are mad because I told you to out away your toys."

4. Scolding and Praise

Scolding and praise are, in their most basic essence, opposites. Where scolding is meant to stop behaviors by showing off the negative, praise highlights the positive. If you notice you're scolding your toddler a lot, start emphasizing the positive with praise. Sure, you have to tell her that it's not acceptable to throw all of the coffee table books on the floor, but at the same time you can praise her efforts to clean up her mini-disaster area.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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