Teddy wants to go shopping, too!

How to Teach a Toddler to Obey

by Melissa Willets

The fact that toddlers have a mind of their own is both adorable and frustrating. Cute -- your little one insists on carrying no fewer than four stuffed animals around the mall. Not so cute -- he won't stop climbing on the furniture. Since toddlers have little natural self control, you will find getting your toddler to obey your rules challenging at times. But don't give up! Remember that you are in charge here... most of the time. And after all, you are only protecting your mini-rebel from hurting himself.

Remain calm. Yelling is appropriate only in an emergency situation, like if your child is about to run into the street. Bellowing, "Don't take your diaper off!" is unnecessary. Try to project a sense of control, especially over yourself.

Explain the command you want your little one to obey, as clearly as possibly. For example, "Please brush your teeth for Mommy."

Repeat the command if your child shows defiance. For example, if your budding independence seeker runs out of the bathroom to play with her doll, patiently but firmly ask her to brush her teeth and explain that after finishing with her teeth, she can go back to the toy.

Take your child's hand and gently lead her in the direction of the desired task. If she resists, you may have to pick her up, but don't show anger. You may be counting the minutes until nap time, but you don't want to scare your child into obeying you. You simply want her to understand that when you ask her to do something, it isn't optional.

Reward her obedience with positive reinforcement. Say something like, "Good job brushing your teeth, honey!" Don't save the cheering squad only for when you ask her to do something and she listens. If your boundary-pushing princess puts her toys away without being asked or reaches up to take your hand before stepping foot in the parking lot, make sure she knows that you notice how hard she's trying to do the right things.


  • Be consistent with your rules and rewards and your toddler will learn what is expected of him.

About the Author

Melissa Willets has been writing about parenting, pregnancy and "all things mom" since 2009. She has contributed to many websites, including Pampers.com and WhatToExpect.com.

Photo Credits

  • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images