“Toddlers and little kids aren’t always little angels in public,” says Ann Douglas, a mother of four and author of The Mother of All Baby Books: The Ultimate Guide to Your Baby’s First Year (John Wiley & Sons; $15.99). But you can help them to want to be good if you can catch’em being good and reward them for it.
“It’s natural for toddlers to behave for however they please,” says Robert Billingham, an associate professor of human development and family studies. “Everything is so new, exciting, interesting and stimulating. They’re simply responding in a curious sort of way whether it’s happy, sad, upset, forceful,” he adds. Sometimes they’re going to behave with tantrums and in other undesirable ways.
To handle misbehaviors in toddlers when in public, of course, is to find ways to prevent them.
“Prevention is always the best strategy with toddlers,” says Douglas. “And to encourage their good behavior is a very powerful tool,” she says. “When you notice your kids being good, tell them so. This makes them want to hear that from you more and more and often kids will come through for you as long as your clear about your expectations.”
Toddler Tips for Good Behavior
• Pay attention to your little one: Is he hungry? Tired? Sick? If the answer is yes to any of those questions then it’s best NOT to take him out.
• If you plan on going out with your child, make sure your tell him what you expect of his behavior before you go
• Establish a “cue” for your child in case he starts misbehaving. It could be a small gesture. It will give your child the signal that bad behavior needs to stop NOW
• Keep him occupied. Make grocery shopping an activity you do together, keep a small bag of little things you can hand him to keep him amused in a pinch
• Reward good behavior (catch him being good!). This encourages him to be his best for you.