Toddlers can be frustrating, but consistent discipline will help them learn to behave appropriately..

Ideas for Dealing With Bad Behavior in Toddlers

by Kathryn Hatter

As cute as your toddler might be, she likely has a stubborn streak. Toddlers probably obey a parent's directives about 50 to 75 percent of the time, note Lynda Hyust and Jean Stutes, Seminole County school psychologists. Because misbehavior is inevitable with kids, expecting it might help you deal with it more effectively.

Act Quickly

When you sense your little one spinning out of control, step in quickly to minimize the misbehavior -- and for damage control, notes the Virginia State University Extension website. As you watch your toddler interacting with others or playing independently, you should be able to recognize signs that he’s becoming frustrated or angry. Intervene with a distraction tactic to prevent behavioral issues from occurring. Similarly, stay attuned to your own internal barometer and if you feel your frustration level rising, suggest a new activity that will help you keep your cool.


Toddlers often engage in unsafe or undesired activities, simply due to curiosity or boundless energy. Your toddler’s desire to scribble on the walls with a crayon or pull all your papers out of a desk drawer probably seem like delightful and engaging activities to her. When your toddler engages in undesired behaviors, use the tool of redirection to find something else for her to do. You might say, “Uh, oh – we don’t write on the wall with crayons. Let’s find you some paper to color on, instead.” By substituting an appropriate activity for the undesired one, you teach your little one what acceptable activities are, according to the Iowa State University Extension website.


Your little one doesn’t need swift intervention and discipline for every misdeed. Sometimes, ignoring misbehavior can be effective for discouraging it as well, notes the Iowa State University Extension website. For example, banging pots and pans on the kitchen floor might fascinate your toddler – and annoy you at the same time. Instead of reprimanding him, try just ignoring him instead. If your toddler is banging to get your attention, not providing praise for the behavior might lead him to stop banging because he's not receiving the attention he wants.


At times, you might want to consider letting your toddler experience consequences for misbehavior. You can use natural consequences to let your child see what results from his own behavior. For example, if your toddler is throwing his toys and breaks one, don't run out and immediately replace it. Instead, let him see what it's like not being able to play with his broken toy. You might also want to give your toddler a timeout to help calm him if his misbehavior is spirally. To do this, issue a warning first, notes If the poor behavior continues, take him to a designated timeout spot — where he must sit one minute for every year of his age. Once he settles down, explain the behavior you expect. When the timeout is over, give him a hug and guide him to another activity.

Stay Calm

Strive to respond to your toddler with calm and firm discipline, even when she frustrates you. Maintaining a calm demeanor with your toddler serves several purposes: You build trust with your little one because she learns that you will stay consistently patient with her. Your self-control also models the behavior you want from your child and she will gradually pattern herself after you as you remain consistent, according to the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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