Children can be defiant, and there is sometimes a reason behind their defiance. We’re not talking about the times when children will sometimes not listen out of stubbornness, or the temper tantrums children will throw when they don’t know how to appropriately communicate their emotions — we are talking about patterns in the child’s temperament, problems at school, and conflict between the toddler and the parent. Keep reading to find out how to react proactively to your toddler’s disobedient behavior, and how you can put an end to the pattern and improve your relationship with your child. 

Hold Your Child Accountable

We understand that sometimes kids just want to defy their parents and struggle to express their individuality and sense of autonomy on their own time. Having a disobedient toddler can create problems that will continue to develop and manifest into conflict in their adult life. One way to prevent this from happening is to hold your kid accountable. 

Children of all ages should know the family rules and help out with chores. Your toddler should also be responsible for completing their homework, knowing when to go to bed, and displaying acceptable behavior towards you and their siblings. Set boundaries with your child, letting them know the types of behavior you will and will not tolerate in your household, and set expectations in terms of chores and responsibilities. 

If your child knows what they are supposed to be doing, they will be aware of their actions when they are not doing it. Holding your child to certain standards will not make them 100% obedient, but it means they will understand the limits as well as the consequences, and hopefully discourage them from breaking the rules you are trying to enforce. 

Take the Proactive Parenting Approach

The first step in proactive parenting is setting expectations and boundaries instead of simply assuming your toddler knows your expectations. Not clearly communicating your expectations and assuming your child knows them is reactionary, and ineffective in establishing desirable behavior. Instead of reacting unrealistically when the toddler repeats undesirable behavior, observe the patterns and make a plan to coach your child to perform the desired behavior instead. Train them in times of calmness and normalcy instead of the heat of the moment, as that will usually result in conflict. 

Another symptom of reactionary parenting is taking responsibility for your child’s actions and choices, which can pressure the parent and lead them to feel hopeless and frustrated when dealing with their child. Instead, allow natural consequences to help your child learn personal responsibility. Do not let your toddler take on unnecessary guilt or discouragement, but do offer wisdom, compassion, and empathy. 

Compromise When You Can

Sometimes, you’ll have to choose your battles with your child. If your toddler insists on wearing a short-sleeved shirt on a cold day, ask them to at least wear a comfortable and warm jacket that they can throw on. Rather than engaging in a battle where neither of you will win, try to find a middle ground where you can both get a little of what you want. This technique, however, won’t work on all things that you and your kiddo disagree on. If your toddler doesn’t want to go to school because they don’t feel like it, you will definitely have to step in and reinforce your expectations. 

Build on the Positive

When your toddler is exhibiting good behavior, then make sure you acknowledge them and praise their behavior. Positive reinforcement can go a long way, especially if they really are trying. Building on the positive attitudes and actions lets your kid know that you are paying attention to them, and want them to do well. This can go a long way in raising a child that is responsible. 

Lead By Example

This can be particularly difficult if your child is testing your patience, but ultimately, it can be extremely effective in establishing positive behavioral patterns. Your toddler sees what you do and how you react, and follows by example. If you shout at them and punish your child for not doing something you asked them to do, then they will react the same way and the cycle will continue. Instead, when they fail to finish a chore you requested them to finish, ask them why and remain level-headed. Re-communicate your expectations without escalating the situation or using anger in your voice. Affirm proper behavior, and even include a reward if you feel you need to. Be cautious of that, however, as they will begin to expect rewards for doing things that they are supposed to do. 

You can tell your toddler about tasks that you have to do at work, or about instructions that you have to follow, and how you get them done because you understand that efficiently participating in society means that you will have to follow instructions from other people, even when you’re an adult. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do, like go to work or do chores, but we have to take responsibility and do them anyway. When you go about and do your chores, do them well and don’t complain. Your child will see this and hopefully learn to do the same. 

Treat Your Child As You Would Want to Be Treated 

Sometimes kids have bad days, and just like adults, need a safe and nurturing space to cool down. Your toddler will have days where they are in a bad mood or feel overwhelmed and simply need some downtime. In cases like this, communicate your expectations, but remain gentle, loving, and understanding. Give them a few examples of how to productively express their feelings and work through their emotions with them. Set a good example of how to respectively act on days when you’re not feeling well, and your children will follow. 

Along the same lines, teach them a few things about self-care. If your toddler does have a bad day at school and just wants to melt into the floor when they get home, show them ways they can relax that aid in practicing self-love and self-care. This could mean letting them watch a little bit of T.V., eating their favorite snack, playing outside for a little bit, or simply lying down. You are not rewarding their bad mood, but simply letting them know their behavior is human, and being in a bad mood isn’t something to be punished. Allow your child the luxury of relaxing a bit. 

Set Your Toddler Up For Good Behavior

The best way to discourage bad behavior is to avoid situations that allow your child to behave in appropriate ways. Don’t force your child into activities or situations that you know they don’t like. Instead, help them thrive by putting them in situations that will contribute to their overall development. Sometimes, you will have to put your child in situations they are uncomfortable in, like signing them up for piano lessons, perhaps. In this case, clearly let them know why you are doing it, why you think it’s good, and how you think it’s going to help them. This will help your toddler understand why they are doing the task. 

Understand that parenting is challenging, and instead of being easily discouraged, seek different techniques or methods in helping your child’s development. Parenting is a full-time job, and one that requires an immense amount of patience. At Compass Early Learning, all of our teachers are trained in helping defiant toddlers place their energy into more productive outlets. Your child’s development is our primary goal, and our preschool aids in fostering their creative expression, cognitive development, and social development. Our preschool programs, which include S.T.E.M, Music & Movement, Art, and Dramatic Play all contribute to the holistic and well-rounded development of the child, preparing them for future success. For more information about our programs, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. And if you would like to view our preschool for yourself, schedule a tour and experience the new standard of early childhood education with Compass Early Learning.