How to Be Patient With Toddlers

A toddler’s behavior can be frustrating at times, but misbehavior isn’t always what it seems. It could be you are expecting too much from your child -- perhaps she isn’t misbehaving but simply doing what toddlers her age do as they learn to master new skills. According to, behaviors that try a parent's patience often are normal developmental stages that children move through. Despite the stress it causes you, it’s common for discipline problems to occur when a growing toddler advances from one stage of development to the next.

See to your toddler’s basic needs. Children aren’t usually at their best when they are tired, hungry, uncomfortable, over-stimulated or bored. Toddlers need routine that includes regular bedtimes and mealtimes, as well as a safe play environment where they can release all that active energy. A happy toddler makes for a happy parent.

Keep your expectations reasonable for your child’s age. Since the kinds of behavior your child demonstrates will change as she grows, you need to consider her age and stage of development. Dr. Phil McGraw explains that if you expect behaviors from your child that she isn’t yet capable of, she might stop listening to you. If that's the case, you’re both going to get frustrated.

Remain calm. Losing your patience only complicates an already stressed situation. KidsHealth cautions you can’t effectively cope with your child’s behavior if you aren’t thinking clearly. How you react influences how your toddler will respond in the future.

Remove your toddler or yourself from a trying situation. Distraction often works when a little one is into things he shouldn’t be. The National Network for Child Care points out that children this age have short attention spans, therefore, redirecting their attention to something else often works 3. If you still feel unnerved, once you make sure your toddler is in a safe place or being supervised by another adult, take yourself off to another room or outdoors for a few minutes until you calm down.

Use your toddler’s misbehavior as a teaching opportunity. When dealing with a problem behavior, Iowa State University Extension suggests showing your child what to do instead of telling her what not to do 4. Redirecting your own efforts helps in many cases. Your child also may be more open to cooperating if she hears the word “no” coming at her less often.

Ignore your toddler’s behavior. This strategy sometimes works for behavior that isn’t destructive or that puts your child or someone else in harm’s way. Kids often will stop a behavior if it doesn’t get them any attention -- negative or otherwise.

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