Taking toddlers out and about can be a joy or a total nightmare. It depends on the day really. And the moon. And if their socks are too sock-like. About a million other things as well. Even the most well-behaved kids have their moments. I have been pretty luck with my son. However, I have discovered some tricks along the way. Here are some things I have found help in preventing bad behavior in toddlers
Feed Them and Have Snacks Handy
Everyone has heard the term “hangry” by now. I swear it is a real thing. For my toddler, it is not something you want to see. The Incredible Hulk has nothing on a hungry toddler. If we are venturing out of the house, I always make sure to feed my son before we leave. If we are going to be gone for an extended period of time (anything longer than 15 minutes) I make sure to have plenty of snacks on hand. This can also be a helpful distraction if they start to rage out in a particularly long grocery store line, or on a long car ride. Your toddler having a full tummy is essential in preventing bad behavior.
Respect Nap Time
One issue I see a lot of parents having is trying to get an over-tired toddler to do anything they don’t want to do. Rest is key in preventing bad behavior in toddlers. My child is 3 and still naps. If I have it my way, he will continue to nap until he leaves for college. Mostly because he is a giant butthole when he is tired. Some of you might think its “not okay” to call a toddler a butthole, but you’ve obviously never met mine when he’s missed his nap.
I always try to arrange my schedule around nap time. We do things before, or we do things after. When it is unavoidable, and we must be gone during his normal rest period, I try and get him to take an earlier nap. In the worst case, we shoot for a slightly late nap. On the days where we miss his nap, I can usually be found chugging wine in a bubble bath and cursing the world right after bed time rolls around. Seriously, it’s not pretty.
Bring Toys Everywhere
In order to be effective in preventing bad behavior in toddlers, you need to understand why your child acts out when they do. Often, it is boredom. We don’t go to restaurants frequently, but when we do, I always have something with me to entertain my child. The 3 broken crayons and paper placemat only hold his attention for so long.
He doesn’t want to act like a total jerk, but he is high energy and can’t sit quietly and still for extended periods. I get it, kid. I always have a couple toys in my arsenal to keep him amused until the food comes. Small cars or dolls or action figures work great. You can bet money that at any given time, I have at least one fire truck in my purse. You know, for emergency purposes.
Have a Plan
Face it, if you think your kid will never ever misbehave, you are lying to yourself. They all do it. At least on occasion. Part of preventing bad behavior in toddlers is having a plan for when all else fails. Having a plan in place for dealing with the behavior will help you be consistent with your response, and in turn help them learn more quickly what is acceptable and what isn’t.
For example, my husband and I decided while I was pregnant that our child would never scream in a restaurant. Now, we aren’t delusional. Of course he will, and he has. However, our plan was to deal with it by immediately removing him from the situation. He learned fast that screaming in a restaurant meant he had to leave and he changed his behavior really quickly. A family member used the same tactic with her child, but her husband wasn’t on board with the plan. The lack of consistency made it a lot harder for the child to understand what was okay and what wouldn’t fly. Consistency and planning are so important.
Praise Good Behavior
I am not the time of mom to only say positive things to my child and ignore the negative. If he does something wrong, he is going to hear about it. What I have learned is that positive reinforcement also helps him learn more quickly than just focusing on the negative all the time. When I notice him being well-behaved, I make a point to tell him. I make a big deal out of it.
If he listens really well to me, I tell him how great of a job he did. I acknowledge how hard he worked. I may offer a special treat on occasion for exceptional behaviors. Positive reinforcement can make your child feel good about themselves and work harder to receive that praise in the future.
Do not be the parent that makes empty threats. Follow through on whatever consequences you set for your child. Preventing bad behavior requires that you be willing to dole out a punishment of some sort. Whether its loss of screen time, no dessert, time outs, or whatever works in your family, always enforce it. Again, this is the consistency necessary for the child to learn.
Sometimes, the mom guilt can hit hard, but stay strong. Your child may hate you for a moment, but it won’t last. It never does. Your child will be better for it in the long run. And if you stick to it, you will find yourself having to use those punishments less and less.
No kid is perfect. They come into this world as blank slates and have to learn everything from how to sleep, eat, walk, talk, and most importantly how to behave. Try and be patient. It can be so frustrating. Especially when your child is screaming bloody murder because their sippy cup is the wrong color. Always keep in mind that you are teaching them and implement these tricks, and remember this too shall pass.
What worked for you for preventing bad behavior with your toddler? Leave your tricks in the comments below!
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