As a parent, you may experience times when an energetic child ruffles your feathers. If you have an active toddler, try to remember that busy toddlers are just as eager to please as toddlers who aren’t quite as “bouncy.” Their heart-felt desire is to connect with you. Lively toddlers simply have a strong urge to explore, so they aren’t as able to stop their inappropriate behavior—even when they want to.

So, how can you cope productively with a child who is so energetic your feelings verge on exasperation? The best plan involves a strategy that will promote gradual self-control around specific unacceptable behaviors.

Focusing on specific behaviors means that you will want to think about addressing a situation at hand rather than making a global statement about your child’s nature. Telling your child he or she is a nuisance or “bad” won’t be helpful. Not only will your child not know what to do to change, but global statements about a child’s nature influence and can damage self-perception and self-esteem.

What is more productive is to let your child know which specific behaviors need to stop and which behaviors are acceptable in the same situation. You can also give your child a simple explanation that connects the behaviors to the outcome. For example, if your child runs into the street, after retrieving him or her, you could say, “I am very concerned that you ran into the street. I love you very much, and I was worried and scared that you would get hurt. If you feel like running, you can run in the grass or on the sidewalk.”

You may need to get down to your child’s level and hold him or her as you talk. If you communicate your feelings with conviction, your child will hear your statement and explanation as genuine, something to be taken seriously. Your toddler learns from your protective actions, and since your child wants your approval, no threats will be needed.

If you have an active toddler, setting up areas indoors and outdoors where his or her energy can be safely released is helpful. And don’t forget to play with your child. Energetic games of tag, follow-the-leader, and hide-and-seek are playful and active ways to connect.

As a final note, when your active toddler rests, give yourself permission to rest as well.