Toddlers are wonderful little humans that are learning their way in the world.

I get a number of messages from parents asking how to handle their toddler (and/or preschooler’s) behaviour. Toddlers can be very difficult to parent; however, it is important to remember that they may be acting out because they are going through a difficult moment. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the number of “moments” your child is having. I have found that once you learn to communicate in an effective way that toddlers understand, life gets much smoother.


The following are some tips that have proven to be very helpful…


1. Reduce the number of times your toddler says “NO”.

When toddlers are given the chance to say “NO” they will use it! To avoid “no” responses try to avoid questions with a yes/no answer. For example: Instead of asking “would you like to go to the bathroom?” try stating “it is time to go to the bathroom”.

2. Offer choices that give the desired outcome.

When you let your toddler know that it is time to do something they may resist. Then you add some choices that give you the desired outcome. For example: When you let your child know it is time to go to the bathroom you could add “would you like to hop or run there”. Here are some other choices that were very commonly used in our house during the toddler stage:

  • you can walk forward or backward
  • you can hop like a bunny or leap like a frog
  • you can use a quiet voice or a loud voice
  • you can walk or I can carry you
  • you can be happy or sad
3. Toddlers are very concrete thinkers.

This means that toddlers think in the literal sense. You can use this to your advantage. When your child is running away and you ask your toddler to “Stop” and they do not. Try stating “Freeze your feet” or “stop your feet”. Then instead of “Come Here” try “please bring your feet to my feet”. Some other great examples of literal statements are as follows:

  • feet on the floor
  • bums on the chair
  • gentle hands
  • kind and friendly words
4. They have not yet developed the ability to categorize items.

Children will start to be able to categorize items between 5 to 6 years of age.

Toddlers can get confused or frustrated when you use a category of an item. For example: when I asked our son to go get his shoes.  He got to the spot where his shoes were and there are only flip flops there. He was very upset. “Mommy no shoes!”

I have spoken to many families that get very frustrated by this. When I point out it is because toddlers are very concrete it causes less stress in the home. Things to remember with this is that we can easily tell the difference between various sweaters but to Toddlers, a hoody is not a sweater. A fleece is a fleece and not a sweater. This all goes back to the fact that Toddlers think in the literal sense.

5. Last but most important, keep it short and to the point!

As an adult, we can drone on about a topic. This is a sure way to lose a child. Do not get me wrong, children love hearing about things they are interested in. Where you lose them is when you go on and on about how they should be doing something.

State what you would like them to do, then give them an opportunity to do it. If they are still not following through then this leads to the topic of dealing with a child’s behaviour.


If you would like more support on how to talk so your toddler can listen, you and click on the work with me tab above and choose the option that suits you.


As Always, Be the Parent You Want to Be!!