How to Manage Defiant Behavior in Toddlers: 5 Steps - MakeSureHow
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Frustrated toddlers demonstrate defiant behavior.

It's tempting to throw your arms up in frustration when your toddler refuses to obey. Before you wave a white flag -- stained with fruit juice and spaghetti sauce -- to signal defeat, take heart. notes that your toddler experiences frustration when his skills do not match his efforts to complete tasks without your help. Defiant behavior is normal when your toddler faces a new dilemma that he cannot resolve. When your adorable toddler resembles a tiny tyrant, positive strategies can minimize defiance and teach new behaviors.


  1. 1
    Provide attention and praise to reward good behavior and nurture new behavior. Don't fall into the trap of giving immediate attention only when your toddler does not obey. For example, "You picked up your toys, so now we have time for a story." Or, "You did a great job sharing your toys with your friend. Let's get some ice cream!"
  2. 2
    Find humor in the moment and laugh with your toddler. For example, appear puzzled and distressed when the shoes he refuses to wear do not fit your feet. Your toddler will discover that it's difficult to protest while giggling!
  3. 3
    Permit reasonable choices. For example, "Would you like to brush your teeth before or after your bath?" Or, if dressing each morning resembles a contest, allow your toddler to choose between two outfits.
  4. 4
    Protect your toddler's daily routine. You probably don't enjoy activities when you are hungry or sleepy, and neither does he. For example, plan outings that won't interfere with your toddler's regularly scheduled meals and nap time.
  5. 5
    Offer explanations or alternate behavior choices. For example, rather than saying, "Don't push your friend," elaborate with, "I'll bet you'll have more fun if you take turns with the pail and shovel."


  • You are your toddler's first role model, so be aware of your own responses to frustration and anger. When he imitates you, feel good about what your toddler said and did when he pretended to be you.


  • Consult your toddler's pediatrician if his defiant behavior presents a danger to himself or others. A child development professional can help to determine the cause of the defiant behavior and offer research-based assistance.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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