How to Redirect Difficult Behaviors With Toddlers

A toddler’s boundless energy and minimal impulse control can create a perfect recipe for imperfect behavior. They prefer to initiate activity rather than to observe the activities of others. Toddlers do not have a monopoly on acquiring new behaviors, as parents scramble to adapt or “keep up” with the frustrating challenge of how to redirect difficult behavior 1. Parents can successfully redirect their toddler’s behavior with strategies designed to help her learn self-control.

Retain and Model Self-Control

You are the most powerful role model in your toddler’s world. The social cues toddlers receive from parents influence behavioral choices. Exhibiting anger or disappointment in response to your toddler’s inappropriate behavior can escalate her frustration. Toddlers struggle to regain their composure, so provide a positive example of how to demonstrate the behavior you want her to emulate 1. Toddlers can respond to redirection and talk about rules only after they regain a sense of calm. Your cool response can point her in the right direction.

Encourage Problem-Solving

Redirect her behavior and build problem-solving skills by offering her a different method to accomplish what she wishes to accomplish. Challenging behaviors are often linked as a chain, and pointing out a novel, positive behavior can break the chain. Parents and toddlers can smile when the momentum of a challenging behavior is stopped and a satisfactory behavior takes its place.

Offer Outlets for Expressing Emotions

As your toddler grows, she might experience strong emotions that she cannot control. Intense emotions such as anger fuel difficult toddler behavior. Your toddler might feel overwhelmed by her anger, and needs your loving support to learn how to express the anger in an acceptable manner. Redirect angry behavior by offering strategies to help her vent her feelings, and demonstrate those methods with your toddler. Suggestions include kicking a ball, pummeling a pillow and riding a tricycle.

Demonstrate Your Understanding

Toddlers fall short in communicating their source of frustration, and your toddler’s frustration level increases when she believes that you do not understand her dilemma. Your toddler is more likely to respond to redirection when she knows that you understand, and that you care deeply about her problem. For example, “I know that you are upset because it is time to leave the birthday party, but we can draw a picture together of the funny cake when we get home.”