Dealing with your toddler’s bad behaviour

Mums can find it difficult when their toddler starts showing the first signs of independence and being naughty. See what causes it and how to deal with it.


Why has my toddler started misbehaving?

As your toddler becomes more independent at around 24 months, they may also start being naughty.

It can be worrying but remember it’s a normal part of their development. By the time they’re 3 or 4, they will have most likely grown out of it altogether.


What are the most common types of bad behaviour?

It can range from whining and crying, to physical behaviour like hitting other children or adults. Some of the most common problems parents of toddlers face are:

  • tantrums and screaming
  • hitting and biting
  • pulling hair
  • throwing objects

What causes bad behaviour?

Tantrums and screaming are often caused by basic needs like hunger, tiredness, frustration or boredom. At this stage your toddler still can’t express how they’re feeling through speech. Instead, screaming is the best way to get your attention.

Aggressive or physical behaviours like hitting and biting happen as your toddler becomes more independent and aware of the world around them. However they’re still not able to control their actions. Pulling hair is one way your toddler may cope with situation they’re unhappy about - they may grab another child’s hair to stop them from taking one of their toys.

Throwing things is simply another part of their development, as your toddler learns how to grab and release their grip. It’s frustrating for parents but throwing objects actually helps to develop their motor skills and hand-eye coordination.


What’s the best way to discipline my toddler when they’re disobedient?

Be firm and tell them ‘no’ very clearly when they first misbehave. You can also give them a time frame with a threat if they don’t stop the bad behaviour. For example, ‘I’m taking your toy away after 5 seconds if you don’t let go of her hair’. 

Distraction is a good way to stop tantrums. When you first notice your toddler becoming upset, get them to focus on something different like their favourite toy instead. You can also put them on a time out for a minute or 2 while they calm down.

Make it clear what they can and can’t throw. To stop them throwing food for instance sit with them at meal times. Teach them to throw toys or balls instead, by playing games in a controlled environment.


How can I prevent bad behaviour in the future?

It’s important to set boundaries for what you think is good and bad behaviour. Make sure your toddler understands there are limits. Even though it’s tempting, don’t give in when they misbehave.

Each time after you’ve disciplined your toddler and they’ve calmed down, explain why you did it. Make it clear that bad behaviour won’t get them what they want.

Equally, remember to praise your toddler when they’re well behaved. Describe what you liked about it and keep encouraging them every time they show this behaviour. You can gradually stop as they start to behave in this way more often.

It can be hard when your toddler starts becoming more independent. 


How dads can help

Work with your partner to set boundaries. Act as a team rather than giving your toddler mixed messages about what is good and bad behaviour.


Is your toddler starting to misbehave? Post a comment

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