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How to Teach Toddlers Who’s In Charge

Your two year old toddler doesn’t like your decisions and wants to set his own rules. Here’s how to teach him to comply.

Your toddler can be mightily annoying at times, especially when he tries to boss you around. He refuses to do what you ask until you agree to his request first. For example, you’ve to give him the sweets he demands for before he agrees to take his bath. He also won’t eat his veggies unless you promise to buy him ice cream. Here are practical steps to teach your two-year-old to respect you and listen.

Explain why he should co-operate

He’s more likely to obey when he understands your intention. So tell him, for instance, that if he has a bath now, then you will have time to read him a story before he goes to bed.


Resist the temptation to give in

Sure, life may be easier if you back down to avoid conflict – but don’t. Persist with your gentle, yet firm request. He needs to know who the real boss is.

Don’t make empty threats

If you don’t stick to your word, you are simply teaching him that you don’t mean what you say. When you warn him that he will be punished in a specific way, make sure that you follow through.

Reward good conduct

Allow him a special treat when he fully cooperates with you – ideally, right after the incident. This reinforces his positive behaviour, making it more likely that he will behave this way in the future.

Play games involving turn-taking

Junior instinctively wants to go first all the time. In a game, he will have difficulty waiting for his turn. Practising this will help stretch his patience without getting annoyed.

Use encouragement, not coercion

If you force your little one to follow your instructions – simply because you are the parent – the effect will only be temporary, and he’ll do what he wants as soon as you turn your back.

Actions speak louder than words

Lead by example. For instance, let him see that you are helping him clean up his toys without complaint, and tell him that you know he’ll do his part, too, when you ask for his help.

Demonstrate sharing

Toddlers don’t like sharing because it means they have to give away something for nothing. So share your drink with him, and ask him to let you have a bite of his favourite snack. He’ll be influenced by the example you set.

Prepare to compromise occasionally

Chances are, sometimes he refuses to cooperate because that is the only way he can develop his independence. There should always be room for compromise.

Be consistent

Teaching your child how to respect and listen is a long process, and doesn’t happen overnight. But if you have a firm approach and stick to it, you’ll gradually see positive changes. Have confidence in yourself.

Control your temper

Despite your best intentions, there may be times when your tot simply misbehaves, no matter what. Should you feel ready to explode, walk out of the room, away from him, until you’ve cooled down.


By Dr. Richard C. Woolfson, Young Parents, November 2014

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