Thursday, March 10, 2016

One Quick Trick to Stop Unwanted Toddler Behavior

This week the ladies of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network are all answering frequently asked questions. Below is the schedule of blog posts for the week; I'll be sharing a little into to each blog post every day this week so just sit right where you are if you want to follow along!

Tuesday: The Moses Home + Team Cartwright
Wednesday: Emily at The Journey of Parenthood
Thursday: Wiley Adventures + Giving It Grace
Friday: Mama's Organized Chaos


Today I'm sharing a method for stopping bad behavior in toddlers (below), and Carrie from Wiley Adventures is over on her blog talking about scheduling. This is such a big topic, but Carrie does a great job breaking it down week by week through 52 weeks. Definitely save this post and come back to it if you're having a baby soon!


Truly the most frequently asked questions I get have to do with newborns and sleep, which is why I wrote this post about sleep goals for babies first four months. Today though, I am answering the second most frequently asked question I get, which is:

How do I get my toddler to stop doing "x" behavior?

The "x" behavior can be a whole host of undesirable behaviors: dropping food, tantrums at the table, delaying at bedtime...really, toddlers never tire of thinking up annoying things to do, do they? 

To stop unwanted behavior, I'll always first advise being more firm. In our home, disobedience or naughty behavior either means I'm not being clear enough with what's expected, or I'm not being swift enough with discipline. But if the undesired behavior is too clockwork - like a tantrum every time mom tries to put toddler in the car - I take a different approach. I like to change it up. The scenery, the routine, whatever - just do something to break the pattern of bad behavior. 

One of the earliest instances of this I can remember is when my son started having tantrums at the dinner table (around 18 months old). We tried all the standard approaches in order: ignore them, remove him from the table, discipline him. Nothing worked well or for very long. It was every night, on cue. One night I decided to just "remove the stage" for the tantrum: he and I ate dinner on the floor in the living room before dad got home. And there were no tantrums. The next evening, I moved his high chair to a different spot in the table, and again - no tantrums. My theory had worked - he just needed the pattern of behavior to be disrupted. 

I tried this theory again a few months later when he learned he could reach his bedroom light switch from his crib. It wasn't the end of the world for him to be flipping the light on and off in the morning while he waited for us to get him up, but that's just not really something I wanted him to do. While he is normally an obedient child when told no, he just couldn't control himself with the light switch. So one night we moved his crib out into the middle of the room for sleeping. A week later, we put it back against the wall and added some new stuffed animals for him to sleep with. We said nothing about the light switch, and he never touched it again. He had completely forgotten about it because we had broken the pattern of the bad behavior.

So my answer to the question of "how do I get my toddler to stop doing "x" behavior is to simply make a big change. Move something around, do something in a new spot, add a new item into the mix. Make the change for a dew days or a few weeks, until you know the pattern is broken, and then you can resume things back to normal. 

1 comment:

  1. I like this approach. I think we used to call it "change the environment" or something like that.