Behavior Strategies for Babies and Toddlers

Strategies for giving directions your child will follow

Children don't develop good ‘reasoning' skills until they are at least six years old and older for some children. Saying things like, “you know better” or “how do you think mommy feels?” will not work with young children. You might get lucky a few times but it certainly will not be consistent. Therefore, remember that you are talking to a child and not a little adult. This is the most difficult part of being a parent but also the most rewarding when you are successful at communicating with your child.

  • Get on your child's eye level and make direct eye contact before giving an instruction.
  • If your child can speak well enough, ask him to repeat what you asked him to do
  • Give one direction at a time, not in a long list.
  • Physical contact (touching his shoulder or back) can help your child focus
  • Understand your child's age well enough to know how long and in what ways he is truly able to play “by himself” or behave in a certain manner, so you don't get frustrated when your expectations are too high

Strategies for maintaining structure

  • Establish predictable routines for morning and evening.
  • Break everything down into small steps with three to four words in a step (for example: 1. clothes off 2. in the tub 3. wash myself 4. dry off 5. get dressed
  • Take pictures of your child completing tasks (such as the ones above) and place the photos on a piece of poster board in order for a visual cue. Look at the chart together and celebrate each time he accomplishes a task to teach persistence and build self-esteem.
  • Keep your child busy with scheduled, supervised activities, but don't pile on so many that the child is overwhelmed.
  • Insufficient sleep makes attention problems worse, so insist that your child have a regular bedtime and enough rest – see number of hours for your child by clicking here
  • Being over-stimulated, overtired or hungry easily creates frustration which leads to tantrums so plan ahead to reduce these problems

Strategies for using rules and time-outs

  • Always review rules (short and no more than 3 to 5 rules) before entering a new environment or an environment you don't frequent often – SIDE NOTE: Rules are what you want to see and not what you don't want to see
  • Set household rules and behavioral goals (as early as two years of age) and adhere to them consistently
  • Time-out should be a condition for the child and not a punishment (using it this way will teach the child over time to remove himself from bad situations and how to calm himself)
  • Use time out as a place for “decompression” and removal from the family unit.
  • Practice going to time out when your child is making good choices - how to sit still and quiet. Time out is where you go when you make bad choices but helps us, too!
  • You have to be the model and pretend to be in time out, too.
  • Your child should sit in the time out chair or spot for 1 minute per year of age. Time should start after your child sits still and quiet (this applies to 3.5 year olds and older)
  • Do not talk to your child during a tantrum, it is meaningless and accomplishes nothing. When he is calm tell him in a short phrase why he went to time out and then practice what he should do next time together.
  • Learn to “smell the roses” (breathe in a deep breath) and “blow out the birthday candles” (blow out a deep breath, as if you are blowing out candles) when you are upset and teach this strategy to your child. This technique is a visual cue that the other person (mommy, daddy or the child) is upset and a stress-reliever that reduces your yelling/screaming.

Strategies for improving organization and time management

  • Set up your home in an organized way: a place for everything and everything in its place.
  • Allow enough time for what your child needs to do to become independent, such as getting undressed, getting dressed, putting on shoes, bathing oneself, eating with utensils, pouring a drink, etc…
  • Build a family schedule and try hard to stick to it – make sure there is a balance between active times and quiet times for your child.

Good luck and best wishes for an abundance of happy days -

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