Hard-Headed Behavior in a Toddler

Knowing what to do when your toddler is particularly stubborn and hard-headed can be tricky because few people are harder to reason with than a toddler with an idea in his head. Luckily, parents have several methods of dealing with hard-headed behaviors in toddlers.

Be Consistent

One of the most important elements to remember when dealing with a stubborn toddler is to be consistent. That means that a behavior or action that is unacceptable at one time is always unacceptable. For example, never give in to a temper tantrum, no matter how public or embarrassing. If even one time you give in to a tantrum and give your toddler whatever he is crying for, he will remember that and the next time he wants a new toy or a milkshake, the tantrum will be even longer and louder than the time before.

Dealing With Feelings

According to the website Zero to Three, one of the keys to helping toddlers behave the way you want them to is to have them express their emotions in an appropriate way 1. For example, instead of crying, yelling or hitting when another child takes her toy, explain to your child that it's better to explain how she feels as much as she is able and ask for a turn with the toy. Let children know that it's OK to be sad or angry, but she has to deal with these feelings in a constructive way.


Toddlers are so young that sometimes the best tactic when your toddler is being hard-headed is to distract him. If he is having a fit over wanting a toy, distract him by pointing out big trucks driving by outside, the pretty colors on the trees outside the window, or anything else that will keep him from thinking about the toy he wants.

Pick Your Battles

Consider what topics are important to you and what isn't worth the fight. For example, if your toddler is being stubborn about wanting cookies before dinner, that's worth being firm on. However, if your child is dying to wear pink tights instead of the red ones you laid out, you might just want to let her have a say in that. Everyone likes feeling as though they have some say over their lives, toddlers included.

Remove Unneeded Temptations

KidsHealth.org suggests trying to anticipate what your child is going to have a fit about and just take that out of the equation, if possible 2. For toddlers that have fits in restaurants, it might be better to order takeout for a while until he outgrows that stage. If you know that a certain toys truck always inspires fights between your toddler and preschooler, put that toy away for a while.