Skip to main content

6 ways you can encourage your toddler’s best behavior

Toddler temper tantrums. Meltdowns. Freakouts. Spaghetti limbs. Screech crying that can scare off wildlife. Strength of a thousand horses. Yes, you have a toddler. And yes, they love to throw tantrums. Trying to get ahead of it and keep your child out of situations that would bring on an outburst is best.

If you find that your little one is having more bad days than good, there are some things you can try to correct your child’s bad behavior. We all like when we are noticed for something good we did. It’s the same for your toddler. Let’s look at some ways to encourage better behavior.

1. The environment should be kid-friendly

This might seem too easy, but it can be overlooked. Are you setting your child up for good behavior? If you do not leave your toddler with a clear set of what they can or cannot do, you’re leaving it up to them, and we know toddlers are dangerous when left to their own devices.

It’s not that they mean to—they are trying to find something to do. If you have to leave your toddler alone for a bit, set them up for success. Do they have a toy? A backup toy? Is everything breakable out of the way?

You set yourself up to get work done, right? You get rid of distractions and make sure the necessities (like coffee or a snack) are there for you. Do the same for your toddler.

Two toddlers playing together at home

2. Mentally prepare for when it goes wrong

Because it will. Almost always. The smallest things can trigger a toddler meltdown. From the wrong color cup to the wrong color crackers, it’s only a matter of time. But if you are mentally ready for your toddler to break down or act out, you can react with reason and not anger.

If you react badly, they will respond to that reaction. If everyone remains calm and you can nicely address what went wrong, your toddler will see that and act the way you do. If you already have the worst outcome in your head, you will know how to deal with it in a way that can keep everyone civil.

3. Good old charts

If you are an organized and visual person, your child probably is too. There are plenty of useful behavior charts for toddlers that you can find online. You can also make one or print one out from your local library. You can use stickers, small toys, or whatever works best for you.

If you get your child excited to put a new mark on their behavior chart, they will want to do more things to get more marks. Having that visual element can help your toddler see how often they’ve done something awesome and how close they are to getting a little something or just filling up the page.

4. Get on their level

This is figuratively and literally. Your child is most likely acting out because they are not being seen or heard. Listen. In all of the adorable words that they know, let them tell you why they feel the way they are. We all want to be heard. Just because they may not be able to form long sentences yet doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say.

Now, get on their level. Crouch down to them. Sit on the floor with them. They will feel like you are really trying to understand them when you get eye to eye with them. You don’t like being talked down to or looked down on, and neither do they, even if they were in the wrong.

Mother talking to her toddler in hallway

5. Lead the way

Yes, you have to be the bigger (not just physically) person. You have to show your toddler that you can’t throw things when something doesn’t go your way. We all hate being watched, but you know you are on your best behavior when someone is.

If you know your child is looking at you while you are handling a bad situation, they will learn to do whatever you do. If you have to scream into a pillow, go to the other room. Do it during nap time. Your toddler can force you to make better decisions and not act out.

If your toddler asks why you look upset or angry about something, explain it to them. It can help both of you. You get what’s bothering you off your chest, and your toddler feels like a big kid who had a grown-up conversation, and you both feel better. Win-win-win.

6. Laugh it off

Parents. Please. Instead of getting upset or frustrated, you need to laugh it off. Once you have both talked it out and are at a good place, have a good belly laugh. This will teach your toddler that one bad moment doesn’t have to mean the whole day is now bad.

Now, please don’t laugh at your toddler while they are trying to explain themselves or talk to you about why they threw their yogurt across the room. But after the episode is done, your child might still feel like they are in trouble or that you might still be upset. A good laugh together can reinforce the bond.

You will probably need a combination of all of these, and maybe more. Adding behavior charts for toddlers for home, in a kid-friendly environment, while keeping yourself calm and ready for anything might be what you try this month. Next month, you might need to rotate something else into the mix.

Know that your toddler is looking to you to set the tone for when things go wrong, or they misbehave. No one is a perfect parent, or even the most okay-ist parent all of the time. You are learning together. Make it as peaceful as a learning environment for you both, and there will be a lot less crying from everyone.

Editors' Recommendations

Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
If you love Disney, these are the motivational quotes to complete your nursery decor
Decorating the nursery or redoing a bedroom? These motivational quotes for kids will fit right in
A crib with nursery decor hanging above it

Decorating a nursery for the first time, redoing a kid's room with a new theme, or wanting art added to your child's bedroom? Motivational quotes are always the way to go. If you're stuck with where to pull inspiration from, how about your kiddo's favorite Disney characters? Disney-loving families will find the perfect motivational quotes for kids to help keep their focus on the positive side of things while leaning on them as room decor.
To remind your child it's all about their attitude
A child is never too young to learn how to work out a problem on their own, and it's never too early to help them have a positive attitude when working through an issue. These Disney characters have the right attitude.
"The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem." -- Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)
"The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work." -- Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)
"You control your destiny -- you don’t need magic to do it. And there are no magical shortcuts to solving your problems." -- Merida (Brave)
To remind your kid they are the only one of them out there
We all think our child is the most precious creature alive. And while we are all correct, hang one of these quotes in their nursery or bedroom to remind them daily.
"Your identity is your most valuable possession. Protect it." -- Elastigirl (The Incredibles)
"I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then." -- Alice (Alice in Wonderland)

To remind them that taking a risk is always worth it
From the first step to the first day of school to the first activity they want to sign up for, every risk your child takes is worth it. Most children love risk-taking anyway, so foster that fearlessness by hanging these quotes up around their room.

Read more
Need to clean out the playroom? This is where you should donate toys
Need help on where to donate toys to tidy up your child's room? We have the local spots to go to first
A child's room that's a bit messy with toys and items all over

Between holidays, birthdays, and "just because" moments, the playroom and kids' bedrooms fill up pretty quickly with all sorts of items. If you want to declutter that toy room and get rid of the things your children no longer play with, donating will teach your kids to help others while letting you see the floor again. Instead of the places that are the usual stops for toy donations near you, try these other places first.
Local Buy Nothing group
If you don't know about your local Buy Nothing group, please look into it. It's a safe place to swap, give away, or ask for items or services completely free of charge. Sure, we'd all like to get a few bucks back from our child's toys, but if you don't want to go through that hassle, this is the best option. You don't even have to leave the house if you're more comfortable with porch pickups in your neighborhood.
Ask hospitals what they could use
Hospitals have tighter rules about what they can take, but it's never a bad idea to ask. The hospital would be the best for when you purchased something, it was the wrong size or item, and now you can't return it. Though items still in the packaging and with tags are always preferred, there are exceptions. Call and ask what your local hospital would take.
Reach out to local day cares/schools
If your children have ever gone to day care, you know how quickly they ask for donations. Day cares are open to more kinds of things, not just toys, so if you need to do a bit of an overhaul in your kids' rooms, ask your local day care facilities. The schools in your area are a great go-to, as well. Teachers always need classroom supplies, and the younger grades would need toys, books, and even clothing for when accidents happen.
Parent groups
Whether you're in a bunch of Facebook groups or are part of a group that meets in person, ask people you already know if they could use some toys your children have outgrown. You have a rapport with these other parents, and if you meet up in person, you could bring the items along and not have to make another stop.

Women's and children's centers in your area
For your donations to make a bigger impact, make sure women's and children's centers are on your list. If you were a struggling parent, you know how much it means to have a place like that to go to when in need. If you're a parent who doesn't have to struggle, pay it forward and count your blessings by donating to one.

Read more
The best chores for kindergartners: Teach responsibility in an age-appropriate way
Kindergarteners aren't too young for chores — give them responsibility with these tasks
Kindergarten boy watering plants in the garden

Are kindergarteners too young for chores? Absolutely not. If you haven't already started giving your 5-year-old simple chores around the house, now is the perfect time to start. Having chores for kids to do is more than just giving busy parents a hand.

Chores go a long way toward teaching children important life skills. Doing chores actually has a lot of benefits for kids. These household chores teach children responsibility and give them a sense of belonging. Helping with simple tasks around the house also works to improve a child's confidence and self-esteem. Getting kids used to completing those everyday tasks like making the bed and doing laundry will most certainly be prudent when they're ready to head off to college or get out on their own. So, what are the best chores for kindergarteners and young children?
Chores for kindergarteners
Kindergarten is a wonderfully fun age. At the ages of 4, 5, and 6, kids are curious about everything and love to spend time with their parents. Kindergarteners also want to do the things they see their parents doing, which is why it's the ideal time to introduce them to chores.

Read more