How To Deal With A Defiant Toddler? 

Parenting can be tough, regardless of what age your children are. But there is something particularly difficult about dealing with a defiant toddler. How do you even deal with a defiant toddler?

Toddlers are beginning to learn more about the world around them and how they fit into it, but still have quite a limited understanding and can only retain a certain amount of information.

It can be difficult to reason with them and explain things in a way which they will definitely understand.

How To Deal With A Defiant Toddler

We have put together some useful guidance on how to deal with a defiant toddler. The advice is drawn from the methodology of natural parenting- a fairly relaxed approach which prioritizes love and patience. 

How To Deal With A Defiant Toddler

Before you start considering how to deal with defiance, it is important to understand why your toddler is displaying defiant behavior. Some children are naturally more defiant than others, but it is very normal for children of this age to be defiant. 

When a child reaches the toddler age, they begin to realize that they are separate from their parents and have the ability to make their own decisions and act independently.

This leads to a defiant toddler testing the boundaries and experimenting with this new information, taking against certain things or demanding others for no apparent reason.

This is combined with the frustration of not having the fine motor skills to be as independent as they would like to be – for example dressing themselves and feeding themselves will still be quite challenging.

And to make it even more confusing for a defiant toddler, they still have a very strong emotional attachment to their parents which can conflict with their newfound independent streak. So it is no wonder that their behavior might be erratic and defiant. 

As a parent, you should remember that this kind of behavior is perfectly normal for a child of this age and is nothing to worry about. However, if you don’t deal with it the right way it could lead to problems later on in their childhood or even in their adult life. 

Set Clear Boundaries

A lack of clear and consistent boundaries can be very unsettling for toddlers and can make them feel unsafe. It is your job as their parent to make it clear what standard of behavior you expect from your toddler and stick to it.

This takes some willpower and commitment – it can be easy to chastise your toddler for something one day but let them get away with it another day because you are too tired or fed up. But this will lead to long term behavioral issues and a lack of respect for authority.

You might have to deal with some temper tantrums, but in the end your defiant toddler will feel much happier and content in a household with clear boundaries. 

Praise Good Behavior

Pointing out your toddler’s bad behavior is easy, but remembering to praise their good behavior can sometimes be forgotten. This is very important, as it reinforces what they are supposed to be doing and builds their self-esteem.

If they receive praise for behaving a certain way, they will want to behave that way again.

Avoid over-rewarding your defiant toddler with food or presents for good behavior as this will provide them with the wrong motivation for their behavior and could easily turn into a situation where you have to bribe them with treats in order for them to display positive behavior. 

Redirect Your Defiant Toddler’s Bad Behavior 

Toddlers learn a lot of new things every day, including how to behave and which things are good and which things are bad. There is bound to be some confusion, some repeated mistakes, and frequent occurrences of undesirable behavior. 

If your toddler feels like they are constantly being told off this could make them feel frustrated and hopeless, and lead to further displays of defiant behavior. 

One of the best things to do when you highlight unwanted behavior is to redirect your defiant toddler towards a more desirable behavior or activity. This will reduce their frustration as they can engage in something positive and receive praise.

It also helps to reinforce which behaviors you want them to display. 

For example, if your defiant toddler is running around the house when they are not supposed to be, tell them not to and then suggest an alternative activity like drawing, reading or coloring. Sit down with them and get them started, remembering to praise them.

It might take a few attempts, but they should settle down to this new activity. This will also build an association with being praised when they take up your suggested activity, which means they will settle down to it quicker in the future. 

Stay Calm And Be Sympathetic With A Defiant Toddler

One of the worst things you can do is meet your defiant toddler’s tantrum with anger and aggression of your own. It is important to remain calm and level headed.

This makes your child feel safe and reminds them that you are a constant source of comfort, but also sets a good example of how to communicate effectively without having to get angry or confrontational. 

You should also try your best to be sympathetic. Remember that your defiant toddler does not have the same level of cognitive function or understanding as you. Making them feel heard and understood will sometimes be enough to stop the tantrum or reduce their defiant behavior. 

If your toddler is upset because they don’t want to stop playing in order to come and eat their dinner, show them that you understand- say that you know it’s sad that they have to stop playing when they are having fun, but they need to have something to eat.

This little bit of understanding can go a long way. 

Encourage Individualism

It is not always possible to let your toddler make their own choices and you should not give into their every demand. However, you should provide them with opportunities to express themselves and develop their individual personality. 

On a day that you have time to spare, let them choose their own outfit or try to dress themselves. It might take longer, but they will enjoy it. 

Final Thoughts

If you have a defiant toddler, you may be wondering about how to deal with a defiant toddler in a positive way. 

Hopefully, in this article, we have covered everything you need to know to deal with a defiant toddler to create a harmonious life for all of the family.

Joyce Bailey
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