Toddler Misbehavior

Is your little angel having a bad day? It’s important to pick the right solution for restoring heavenly peace.

You’ve read all the parenting books, watched every episode of Dr. Phil, participated in parenting programs at church and still your child is misbehaving. What’s a parent to do? Here are some familiar scenarios along with possible responses. See which solution works best for you.


Loaded down with a cart full of groceries, in fear and trepidation, you slowly make your way to the checkout stand, mindful of the landmines awaiting you. Your toddler snaps to attention, noticing the assorted candies and mints strategically placedat eye level forlittle people too young to purchase anything. You hold your breath and then… “Mommy, can I have some candy?!” You quickly point out the granola chewy bars in the cart, along with the soy potato chips, but no dice. It’s game time! You know your child has reached code red, the highest tantrum level, because the store clerk is processing the contents of your cart at rapid speed, and those behind have begun whispering the mantra of the childless, “if he were mine…”

You decide to:

Solution I: You reach for the nearest chocolate product, rip off the packaging and shove it into your toddler’s mouth. You smile at the cashier and hand him the wrapper with bar code intact.

Solution II: Tough it out. Let ’em scream. Someday when your child is Valedictorian of the local high school, everyone will hail you as Mother of the Year.

Solution III: Leave the line, telling the checker you’ll be right back. Ask the courtesy clerk to temporarily place your cart in the back in cold storage. Leave the store and then return after your child calms down.

According to Family Psychologist John Rosemond, author of Parenting by the Book (Howard Books), there needs to be a tantrum place in the home. “You are giving permission to have a tantrum. Offer to help him find a place where he can’t destroy anything, like the bathroom or guest bedroom. Then explain clearly ‘the doctor’ says it needs to be in an isolated place. Evoking a third party ‘doctor’ makes the child more willing to cooperate.”


Within the walls of almost every family lives an apparition capable of gross destruction. It leaves fingerprints on perfectly frosted cakes, shatters glass and pottery beyond recognition, and wreaks havoc upon innocent animals with torture tools resembling paint and women’s clothing. Its only identification? “Not Me.” You’re no Judge Judy, but a toddler covered in chocolate frosting, standing on a chair next to the shattered remains of a family heirloom, or toting a paint brush dripping in a hue of red matching the dog’s nose gives you enough evidence to convict. The objection? “I didn’t do it.”

You decide to:

Solution I: Believe your child (then call me, ‘cuz I have some lakefront property I’d like to sell to you).

Solution II: Set up court in your home and hear all arguments before convicting. Don’t forget the gavel.

Solution III: Don’t ask who did it. Why bother? Just clean up the mess, dole out any needed consequences, and move on.

“Toddlers lie,” says Rosemond, “but parents already know the answer to the question. When parents ask, they are setting up the toddler to take the opportunity to lie and roll the dice. Don’t ask. Tell the child what she did wrong and have the toddler help you clean it up. Make statements that don’t invite the lie in the first place.”


It’s time to go home, but not for your toddler. He’s having way too much fun, and is betting that you won’t make an attempt to retrieve him from high atop the indoor playland. You call him 30 times, and threaten to never come back again. He pretends not to hear you.

You decide to:

Solution I: Bribe your child with a large ice cream treat if he comes down.

Solution II: Shinny up the play structure and pray you won’t need to make a 911 rescue call after getting stuck in the tunnel.

Solution III: Make future plans to play first and then eat. As soon as junior is done eating, snag him and leave.

At this age toddlers feel they aren’t beholden to any authority, especially parental. Rosemond says, “If you know they’ll run, grab them. Realize, too, that toddlers should be given consequences for misbehavior, but don’t expect it to sink in until age three.” Bummer.


You swore before you had children that you would never in a million years succumb to shouting at your child those horrid words, “Shut up!” Now, a couple of years in, you’ve discovered your darker side. To your defense, what normal human being is capable of enduring a straight twenty minutes of whiny, high-pitched noises disguised as an attempt to communicate? Especially when said toddler has otherwise mastered the ability to speak clearly and much less annoyingly.

You decide to:

Solution I: Take a cram course in Whining 101 in an attempt to meet your child where he is.

Solution II: Succumb to the “S.U.” comeback you swore off, and die of embarrassment later when your child yells that response to another child (probably your pastor’s kid).

Solution III: Tell your child that you can’t hear whining, and you’ll only respond to proper talk.

Rosemond says be persistent and don’t respond to whining. Remember alsothat patience is a Fruit of the Spirit. He also suggests focusing on the positive aspects of toddlerhood by reading his book, Making the Terrible Twos Terrific! (Andrews & McMeel).

Hopefully the solutions you choose will reflect to your little one the love and discipline of our Lord. It might help to remember just how much grace He bestows upon us when we misbehave.

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