How to Respond To Your Toddler’s 9 Most Annoying Behaviors

Jill Ceder
3 min readMar 28, 2017


Most toddlers go through periods where they’re trying out new behaviors. They are both testing your reaction and learning about the world around them. Our instinct as parents is to tell them “no” and to stop the behavior immediately, either because we think it’s wrong or other people think it’s wrong and we’re embarrassed in public.

The more you tell a kid that their behavior is wrong, the more they want to do it. After all, they’re getting a reaction from you. To change the behavior, you need to connect with your child and shift the “bad” behavior into a fun and silly behavior.

1. Screaming

If your child likes to scream loudly and this is bothersome to you because you’re in a public place or because it simply hurts your ears, teach your child to scream with no sound. Together, open your mouths really wide as if you are screaming, but teach him or her to be silent. Silent screams are silly to kids and you can do this together.

2. Hitting parents or siblings

If your child goes through a hitting phrase as many kids do, you can suggest that instead of hitting, your child tickles you in the chin and when they do, you let out a huge laugh. Toddlers will find this hilarious and it is a redirection from hitting and a way for you to connect instead of reprimand.

3. Not listening

If your child isn’t listening to something you’re asking him or her, don’t yell to get their attention or grab whatever is occupying them. Instead, say something silly like, “Are your ears clogged? Are there cotton balls in your ears?” and go check in their ears.

4. Siblings fighting

It’s inevitable that siblings will fight with each other, but that doesn’t mean you have to pull out the mean mom act every time. Sometimes kids deserve a chance to stop, rewind, and re-do.

Tell your kids to act like they’re rewinding a movie. Have a discussion about what other choices can be made. Allow your kids to try again and make different decisions. It’s important to teach kids that people make mistakes and you can apologize and make a new decision. Maybe next time they’ll think about the behavior in advance and hold back from doing it.

5. Throwing

Babies and toddlers love to throw. They are thrilled by watching items go up and then down or fly across the room. The trouble starts when the thrown item is food, which ends up staining your floor, or something heavy or sharp, which can be dangerous. Set aside time to throw together. Throw pillows on the floor or throw pretend food into baskets.

6. Tantrums

If your child asks for something and is denied, it’s likely that tears, whining, and tantrums will follow. Before this tornado of emotions happens, use rhymes or silly nonsensical statements to grab your child’s attention and engage them in something silly. Redirect your child away from what he or she was upset about by using a mixture of language development and silliness.

7. Impatience

Whenever my child appears to be lacking patience, I start singing. If you’re waiting in line at a store and the whining starts, get your kid to sing a song with you. If you’re feeding your baby and your toddler wants some attention, start singing a song he knows and loves. Singing is soothing for both child and parent and puts everyone in a better mood.

8. The morning struggle

Getting ready and off to school in the morning is a battle for most parents. The key to getting your child out the door is to make it fun. Make it a race between siblings or challenge your kid that he can’t get his shoes on and tied before you are done singing the alphabet.

9. The dreaded “Why, why, why?”

Once your kid gets to the age where every statement of yours is followed by, “why?” you’ll wish you never knew the word. You can keep answering the question, but your kid will most likely keep saying, “why.”

Instead say “I wonder…” Ask your child what they think and give them the confidence to come up with an answer. Regardless of whether their answer is right or wrong, it will begin a conversation between the two of you.

Jill Ceder is a psychotherapist, writer and mom of two in Brooklyn. You can read more of her parenting writing on (formerly Parenting) or her website. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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