Your toddler's behaviour

Toddlers tend to be busy, lovable, messy and have lots of energy. They explore and experiment, and each experience teaches them something new about their world and their place in it. They are also vulnerable and can get hurt easily because they don’t know about danger. Your toddler is unique and will react to situations in their own way, so pick and choose from the ideas below that work for your family.

Toddlers are very curious about things, and may begin to:

  • learn by helping you around the house
  • copy others and try to help
  • like being around you (e.g. while you prepare meals, do the cleaning or fold the washing). 
  • say ‘no’ a lot.

What adults consider work can be exciting and valuable play for toddlers. The world is a toy to them. You’re probably their favourite playmate; they love to be with you.

Doing things on their own

Your toddler will also become more independent and will want to do things by themselves, in their own way, and in their own time.

At times this may be different to what you want them to do. For example, they may refuse to be dressed, not get into their car seat, not want to leave the park, or may run away from you at the shops.


It’s common for toddlers to test the limits and to have tantrums. When your toddler tests you or has a tantrum, it’s usually because they’re angry, upset or frustrated and often can’t tell you why. Sometimes they hit and bite. It’s all normal.

Children are not naughty on purpose.  Frustration and anger are normal human feelings. You haven’t ‘failed’ if your child has a tantrum or isn’t behaving well.

Your toddler will probably repeat any behaviour, good or bad, that gets attention. For example, if you give your toddler at sweet to stop a tantrum at the supermarket, your child is likely to do it again as they’ve learned that a tantrum is a great way to get what they want.

Some ways to help you get the behaviour you want

  • praise and encourage your toddler when they behave as you want them to
  • give them consistent, clear guidelines
  • plan ahead to think of and avoid stressful situations
  • ignore small behaviour issues and distract your toddler.

Five important ways to help toddlers stay calm and happy

1.  Set limits and boundaries

This will guide your toddler in what’s okay and what’s not. Have as few rules as possible and stick to them. Rules should be fair, realistic for their age, and positive.  Children feel more secure knowing what’s okay, even though they may not always like it.

2.  Help them to know and understand your rules and limits

It’s important to check that toddlers are clear about what behaviour you accept and what you don’t.

3.  Be consistent - words and actions need to match

Try not to tell them one thing and then do another. Try to respond in the same way to your toddler’s behaviour each time.             Toddlers are calmer when they know what to expect.

For example, if you’ve decided that you won’t buy your toddler sweets when you go to the shop, make that clear to them and keep to that plan. Maybe take something else to eat, like a banana.

4.  Give your toddler simple choices

This may help your toddler feel they have some say in decisions, help them learn, and make them less likely to say “no”.

For example, instead of, “Would you like an apple?” try, “Would you like a banana or an apple?”

5.  Be realistic about what they can and can’t do

You can’t expect a 1 year -old to eat without making a mess or a 2 year old to sit still for a long time.

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