Parenting Toddlers - How to Act When Your Toddler Acts Out

Parenting toddlers ...

... skillfully is crucial because this is a formative period which determines how your child views himself, your relationship and the world around him. How you treat your child right now, particularly with regard to discipline, can impact him for years to come. In this article, you'll learn three important tips for dealing with difficult behaviors in children who are one to three years old. If your child is younger or older, these tips will benefit you as well.

No longer a baby, a toddler is full of energy and will, which can be challenging for parents, especially those who do not have the coping skills to deal with normal child behaviors, like tantrums and outright defiance. It's important for you to understand that a lack of coping skills puts the child and parent at-risk. The child is at-risk for emotional and physical bullying by the parent. The parent is at-risk for overwhelm, drug use, indifference and depression. No matter how skilled you are at interpersonal relationships, parenting toddlers can be challenging, so consider using the tips below.

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Parenting Toddlers Tips

  • Learn how to separate the behavior from the child. In other words, your child is NOT his behavior; behavior is something he does, not what he is. Your child is learning and growing every day and if you are willing to take the time to teach him appropriate behaviors, he will learn.

    If your child makes a giant mess or breaks one of your favorite things, remember that it was not intentional: instead, your toddler was doing his job: exploring the world, how it works and discovering the limits. It's your job to teach him what those limits are in a way that he can understand.

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  • If your child is throwing a tantrum, you can't help him unless you are calm. If you react to a screaming fit with a screaming fit of your own, you may momentarily stop your toddler in his tracks, but you're missing an opportunity to teach him how to positively express his feelings. A child looks to your behavior to determine how to act. If he screams and you scream back him, this validates his behavior and tells him that this is how people express their feelings.

    A child who is having a tantrum is expressing an unmet need in the only way that he knows how. As the parent, your job is to decode (or figure out) the unmet need behind the loud and physical expression of feelings. For instance, your child may be hungry, tired, wet or sick. He may just need some cuddling after an overwhelming day. He may be bored or overstimulated from a day spent mostly in his car seat, rushing with you from place to place.

    Children throw tantrums not to make us mad, but because they need to release stored feelings, tell us something they don't know how to say or because it may be the only way to get our full attention on a busy day.

  • Parenting toddlers requires growing ourselves into mature adults who can respond to situations rather than react to them. A good way to learn how to do this is in a parenting class. When faced with a defiant toddler or a hissy fit, the most grown-up thing we can do is meet our children's roiling emotions with our own inner sense of calm.

    The world is not going to end because a toddler is having a tantrum. If you're at the store when your toddler decides to throw himself to the floor and you get the stink-eye from passersby, smile inside yourself and know that these people know nothing about raising kids. IThe people who know that tantrums are normal will wink or smile at you compassionately because they've been in your shoes.

  • That said, before you respond to your toddler, take a quick time-out. Unless your son is about to dive headfirst from the shopping cart and you need to prevent him from getting harmed, take a few moments and breath deeply in and out four times. Your breath will calm and center you, so you can take appropriate measures and respond to your child without getting caught up in the drama.

Parenting toddlers can be fun and rewarding and cause us to find out more about ourselves as part of the process. If we can practice the philosophy that the child is not his behavior and understand that like us, he is learning, we can love our children and act in their best interests even when they seem to be at their worst.

About the author: Laura Ramirez is the author of the award-winning parenting book Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting which teaches parents how to be responsive rather than reactive and how to raise children to develop their strengths and create a meaningful and fulfilling life. The book takes parents on a journey of self-discovery deep into the heart of what it means to be the steward of a child.

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