Toddler Disobedience Problems

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr Google

    Some days your toddler pushes every button you have, often without meaning to. His behavior could bring both of you to tears. Sometimes curiosity or learning independence gets him in trouble, and he may not understand why you are upset. Other times, he intentionally jumps on your very last nerve until you want to pull your hair out. Different motivations for his behavior require different responses.

    Toddler's Favorite Word

    Is your toddler’s favorite word “No?” The most frustrating part of "no" may be that your tot doesn’t always mean to disobey. She may say “no” because it is one of the first words she learns and her vocabulary is too limited to communicate what she wants. Simply restate what you want her to do and help her understand she must obey. She might say "no" because she's learning to be independent. Celebrate this! Really! You want her to say “no” to strangers and peers when it means breaking the rules. Acknowledge her desire to do some things herself. Say, “If you don’t want me to do it for you, let me see you do it like a big girl.” Often, you get a smile and compliance because she has the chance to do it on her own.


    Your toddler can be stubborn, especially if he is strong-willed. You have to act stubborn and make it happen. For example, if the tot throws a tantrum because he doesn’t want to go where you say, pick him up and move him there. Avoid counting him down or raising your voice over and over until your last nerve jangles. Your intelligent child quickly learns he can delay obedience until just before you lose it.


    Toddlers have an incredible curiosity about the world. Sometimes she disobeys because she just has to know what’s in that drawer or how that make-up would look on her. Distract her with something else for her to explore. For example, give her a spoon and pot to bang on or leave safe items in an unlocked cabinet and put the dangerous stuff out of reach or under lock and key.

    Schedule Conflict

    Toddlers act out more often when they are tired, hungry or frustrated. Watch him and learn the signs that tell you the problem is one of these three conditions. Head off the problem by supplying food, a nap or assistance. Sticking to a schedule reduces the problem and the tantrum that often follows. If you must disrupt his schedule, accept the consequences and remedy it as quickly as you can. You, too, might benefit from a nap or food to ease your frustration and restore peace.


    About the Author

    Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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