Decades of behavioral research and experience have taught us that it’s important to deal with behavior problems by teaching your child to do what you WANT him to do. Calling a 16-month-old a “brat”, for example, when he hits you won’t teach him how to treat someone kindly. Teaching him how to treat someone kindly will redirect his attention from a behavior you don’t want him to learn, to one that you want him to practice until it becomes a habit.
Everything is new and interesting to one year olds. They enthusiastically use their five senses to actively explore the world around them. They find pleasure in causing things to happen and in completing basic tasks. And once a discovery is made, one year olds want to make it happen again and again and again! So, redirecting a toddler to a behavior that is “good” rather than “bad” will help repeat those actions you want—rather than those you don’t.
- Make sure that you or another caring adult is watching the play of your toddler, so the adult can redirect his play to behaviors that are good for him and for those around him. One year olds are not able to understand the concept of sharing, for example, so take your child out of a situation where you know frustration or anger are just a “grab” away because he cannot, developmentally, understand the concept!
- When your child begins to play with a fork at the dinner table by poking himself or others, for example, use this occasion as an opportunity to teach him how to use a fork properly, instead of using it to hurt someone. Redirecting him to the right way to use a fork—or taking it away if he is not developmentally ready to follow that direction—gives him positive attention for doing the right thing!
- Make sure that your child is not left alone in a high chair that could tip, for example. When he is fussy in the high chair, understand that this is a signal that he is ready to get down and to be redirected to play safely with you—his most coveted toy!