If your toddler is ignoring you, timeouts can work wonders. “Timeouts are very effective [with] toddlers who just can’t stop themselves,” says Karp. “They deprive your child of something precious to her: the privilege of being with you.” According to the AAP, timeouts in preschool-age children increase compliance with parental expectations from 25 percent to 80 percent. Revoking certain privileges is also effective. “If your toddler hits a friend with a toy, take the toy away,” says Karp. “If she’s tossing crackers over the side of the high chair, take the crackers away.
If she’s taking too long to get ready to go to the park, tell her ‘Get dressed before I ring this bell or we won’t go.’” In extreme situations—like hitting another child or running in a public place—removing your toddler from the situation altogether is probably best. For children over the age of 2, practicing some role-playing later on can be a great way to reinforce a lesson you want them to learn about what happened.
Throughout the process, predictability is essential: Maintain loving and respectful routines, offer praise whenever a milestone is reached, follow through on promised penalties. When toddlers begin to see patterns in your behavior—and in the consequences of their own—they learn to think before they act. And that’s often what manners are all about.
Los Angeles-based freelance writer Alexa Joy Sherman has improved her manners immensely since giving birth to 15-month-old Jack.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TODDLER MAGAZINE, SPRING ’07