What are some of the healthy ways you can get your toddler to cooperate? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Frame your request with an outcome that appeals to your child. For example, “We are going home now and then we can _________.”
  • A toddler’s natural sense of fairness is your ally. “Please stop kicking the back of the seat. I can feel it and it hurts.” When you explain that a particular behavior is troublesome in some way, you tap a toddler’s sense of fairness and also teach him or her that people have different needs.
  • Use words that your toddler understands. “I need you to _____.” “It’s time for Joanie to have a turn on the swing before it’s time to go.”
  • Let the child know that a parent is in charge of deciding what to do in a given situation. Even if they don’t always show it, toddlers like to know that a parent is in charge. “I am the parent, and I will decide what to do here.” You can also then remind them of a decision that they will get to make. “I am deciding that we need to go home now. You can decide what game to play when we get there.”
  • Use humor. Make a game out of the situation or become dramatic. “You want to have ice cream before we have lunch! Oh, my! I just can hardly believe it!” You can teach your child what is allowed and what is not allowed in a playful exchange.
  • Frame your request positively. Say “Please stay on the sidewalk” rather than “Stay out of the mud puddle.”
  • Acknowledge and commend compliance, whether that means a quick touch on the head or a “Thanks for putting on your shoes.”

Remember, your toddler will not always comply. Testing authority and asserting independence are part of the toddler’s developmental process.