Dealing With Self-Asserting Toddlers

People call them terrible twos for something. Have you found yourself in the negotiation table with none other than your 2-year-old over wearing the queen Elsa dress in class picture day? Have you experienced the judgmental stares from everybody in the supermarket when your child was throwing tantrums?  


Take solace in the fact that mostly all parents with toddlers encounter these situations. During toddler years, children start to explore their surroundings and discover themselves as individuals, but they have limited ability to verbalize and reason out. A child development expert describes typical toddler behaviors. They know that their actions matter and they can make things happen which leads them to make their imprint and assert themselves in a way they weren’t able to do when they were babies. “A toddler isn’t a baby anymore, and since he has to grow up whether he likes it or not, treating him like an infant will only make him balk,” says Penelope Leach, Ph.D. “But a toddler isn’t a preschooler yet either…treating him like he’s older than he is makes him clingy. ” The conflict is toddlers have no to little self- control. They are not rational thinkers. Experts share some parenting advice on discipline methods to aid in dealing with self-asserting toddlers.

Be Consistent

Young children thrive in order and routine despite the overwhelming and unpredictable world. It makes them feel safe and secure. A child is behaved and calm when they know what will happen and to expect. Utilize the same schedule every day as much as possible. Set consistent nap times, bedtimes, mealtimes, and playtimes. Inform the child in advance if there would be changes in their schedule. Consistency is the key to a discipline. When you say no hitting, it should mean “No hitting” the second, third and succeeding time.

Avoid Stressful Situations

Learn about your child’s trigger and its reactions. The usual culprits are hunger, sleepiness and sudden change of environment. Avoid these meltdown scenarios with anticipation and planning. If possible make sure to come home in time for naps or always bring snacks to curb hunger attacks. Mary Wong, MD. agrees to this, “Respect the nap. Try to plan outings or errands around nap time, when your child is less likely to feel irritable”

Think Like a Toddler

Don’t treat your toddler like an adult. They have difficulty understanding things that are already integrated into our everyday lives such as how to follow instructions and appropriate behaviors. Acknowledge what your toddler is feeling but set limits as well.  Give them choices to show that you respect their decision and give them the opportunity to assert their likes and dislikes.

Practice the Art of Distraction


Toddlers have a short attention span. Use this characteristic of a toddler to your advantage. Distract bad behaviors by offering them with activities that are more productive such as helping with daily chores, play with educational toys and going over picture books.

Give Them A Break

Timeout is one of the significant foundations of discipline; however, according to a recent study, it shows that timeout is not the best approach for toddlers. Being sent away implies that the child is terrible; the better way is to promote good behavior. Set up a cozy corner free from toys and sharp object where your child can chill out until he or she can get in control of his/her emotions and behaviors.

Stay Calm


This is hard to follow when your child is crying and flapping his hands in a middle of a crowd without anything to appease him. Losing your temper will escalate the already tense situation.  Stay calm to the point of being stoic when there is a screaming involved. Jay L. Hoecker, M.D. writes “If you’re in public, take your child aside without discussion or fuss and wait until he or she has calmed down before continuing with your activity.” If there’s no way to lessen the tantrums, the best option is to ignore the behavior entirely.