How to Model Behavior That You Want to Teach Infants and Toddlers

Infants and toddlers are a lot like sponges. They soak up everything they see. For that reason, it is imperative that you model appropriate behavior in front of, and around, your young children 1. The reason for this is that infants and toddlers learn their own form of normal by watching the adults around them. If you model appropriate behavior, such as an indoor voice, proper manners and politeness, your kids will consider those the norm and be more likely to behave in a similar manner 1. However, if you choose to model inappropriate behavior, it shouldn’t come as a shock if your kids one day behave in the same manner.

Abstain from using physical violence in front of your infants and toddlers. When they do not behave accordingly, do not spank them or slap them on the wrist. Being hit or watching as you hit your older children shows them that hitting is okay, and it is not. Instead, use other forms of discipline, such as time out and removal of favored objects or toys.

Take responsibility for your actions. If your child sees you break a glass and later hears you telling your spouse that the cat must have jumped onto the counter and knocked it down, she will learn that lying to keep herself out of trouble is an acceptable form of behavior, and it is not. Own up to your mistakes. This teaches your children responsibility.

Treat others with kindness and respect. When you are polite, kind and respectful of others and their feelings, you are teaching your infants and toddlers that this is typical behavior. They will learn to treat others with the same kindness, politeness and respect that they see you use with those around you.

Speak and react only after taking a few moments to think about what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want your reaction to come across to others. Do not do this only when you are angry, hurt or upset. Do this all the time. Thinking before you speak gives you the few extra moments you need to arrange your thoughts and get your point across in a way that others understand. Furthermore, not thinking before you speak can cause you to offend others or make a situation worse than it was before you spoke. Thinking before speaking is a behavior you want to model for your infants and toddlers.


Act the way you want your kids to act at all times, not just when they are watching you or listening to you. Being a better version of you is beneficial in ways other than just in terms of parenting.