No climbing on the furniture; you might fall!

Tips on Behavior Modification for Toddlers Who Are Hyperactive

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Does your toddler sweep through the day like a massive bundle of kinetic energy with no off switch and no sense of consequences for his behavior? Do you scamper after him picking up fallen objects and trying to restore order? If so, then you know what it’s like to deal with a hyperactive toddler. Regardless of whether your doctor prescribes medication, behavior modifications techniques can help rein him in.


Most toddlers do well with a consistent routine, but routines for hyperactive tots can bring order to chaos. As often as possible, stick to the routine. For example, get her up and feed her, have her brush her teeth and get dressed and then you can head out to work on time or begin your tasks at home. If she knows what activity should come next, she might begin it without prompting. It won’t work every day, but many days it can get your day off to a calmer start.


Reward him when he successfully completes a task. Think of the reward like a paycheck -- payment for a job received and incentive to do it again. A reward can be anything that works for him. Praise him and tell him he’s a “big boy,” or brag on him to Grandma and let her praise him, too. Let him watch his favorite video or read his favorite book. Go outside with him for some exercise and fun. Make it quick or he will forget why he's getting it.


Your tot might not be able to read yet, but she can recognize familiar objects such as a bed, a toothbrush or a place of food. A chart with pictures instead of words can remind her what to do next. Place the chart where she can see it, or in multiple locations, such as the bathroom, her room and the kitchen. If you laminate the chart, you can use it for many weeks, checking off completed tasks with a water-based marker or using stickers you can peel off and reuse.

Natural Consequences

Life has natural consequences, and your toddler can learn that lesson early. If he jumps off the bed, he can get hurt when he hits the floor. If he makes you late because he’s too busy running wild to get dressed, you don’t have time to let him visit with a friend or watch his favorite show. Get down on his level and remind him that his choices led to the negative consequence. Suggest he make better choices if he wants positive consequences.


Planning can help both of you avoid negative consequences. Set out clothes for the next day before she goes to bed. Put her shoes by the door or, better yet, have her do it. Pack her diaper bag or backpack with supplies after you get home and hang it conveniently by the door. These little tasks will save you a lot of time and headaches when life gets rushed.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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