Toddler is naughty? Ask yourself if you’re expecting too much first

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — May 26, 2017
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    It’s only natural that you want your toddler to be well-behaved, to cooperate with you, to be sociable with others and to do exactly as you ask of him.

    For example, you’d love him to sit quietly in his stroller while you wander round the mall. You’d be delighted if he ate all his lunch without complaining. You’d be over the moon if he didn’t have a tantrum every time you tell him he can’t have his own way.

    Instead, he makes up his own mind on these matters, so his behaviour may not meet your expectations.

    First, ask yourself these questions:

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  • What do I base my expectations on?
    2 / 9 What do I base my expectations on?

    You develop your ideas about bringing up your kid from a range of sources, including your childhood experiences, magazines, websites and other parents. And you’ll have already discovered wide variations about the way a tot should behave. There is no single set of rules that applies to all.

    Related: Dealing with toddler tantrums: what you must know

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  • Do I expect too much of my toddler?
    3 / 9 Do I expect too much of my toddler?

    Perhaps it is unrealistic to assume that your energetic tot should fall asleep the moment his head touches the pillow. And perhaps a child this age doesn’t usually sit quietly in a stroller. Consider the possibility that the standards you set for him are too high.


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  • Does he respond to my demands?
    4 / 9 Does he respond to my demands?

    There’s no point in expecting your little one, say, to play with the same toy for 10 minutes if you know that he is easily distracted. Try to accept his standard, if that is the best he can possibly do at the moment. Of course you should encourage him to improve, but avoid fruitless confrontation.

    Related: Toddler cries easily: how to stop the behaviour

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  • Do I push him far too hard?
    5 / 9 Do I push him far too hard?

    If your young one consistently fails to meet your expectations – and you find that you’re constantly arguing with him – then consider lowering your demands so he can achieve the behaviour targets you set. There is no point persisting with goals that are completely beyond him.

    Here are four suggestions to help you manage you little one more successfully:

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  • Set realistic targets
    6 / 9 Set realistic targets

    For instance, if he is a disorganized type of child, don’t expect him to keep his toys neatly stacked in the corner.

    Perhaps a starting goal of putting one item in the toy box each night is sufficient. That way, it is possible for him to achieve what you want.

    Related: 5 organisation tips for children

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  • Praise success
    7 / 9 Praise success

    When you reprimand your tot for his misbehavior, it draws attention to his failures. That’s why it’s better to say: “I’m really pleased you sat quietly in your stroller in the shop today, that made me very happy,” than to say: “I wish you would sit in your stroller for longer without moaning.”

    Related: 9 ways to praise your kid

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  • Gradually increase your expectations
    8 / 9 Gradually increase your expectations

    He played nicely with another young child for a minute without snatching each other’s toy! Once you see that Junior has achieved the goal you set for him, increase your demands gently.

    For example, expect him to play with his friend for a few moments longer without fighting.

    Related: 5 ways to teach your child compassion

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  • Watch other parents and toddlers
    9 / 9 Watch other parents and toddlers

    Ultimately, you decide how you want to raise your child and how he should behave, but there is no harm in observing other parents with their young kids. You can learn a lot from watching them cope with the same challenges that you face.


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