Teaching positive behaviour

All children need their parents’ attention. If your toddler only gets your attention when she is behaving in ways that aren’t okay, she may continue because she needs you to notice her.

Pay attention to your toddler when she behaves in ways that are okay and encourage that behaviour. Some examples of positive attention are smiles, hugs, saying “please” and “thank you”, and commenting about what she’s doing. This kind of encouragement helps your child learn.


Here are some ways to help your toddler learn positive behaviour.

  • Set up your home so you can say “no” as little as possible. Remove or lock up dangerous objects and put the things she can use at her level. Use plastic cups, toy baskets, low bookshelves and coat hooks so she can learn to do some things on her own.
  • Treat your child with respect. This is how she learns to treat you and others with respect. Think about what she is trying to do, listen to her point of view and help her learn what to do next time.
  • Notice and comment on what she has done when she behaves in a way that you want to encourage.
  • When your child does something that isn't okay, tell her what she did, why it's not okay and what she should do next time instead. Be consistent so she knows which behaviours aren’t okay.
  • Don’t assume that she remembers things you’ve told her before. A toddler’s brain is still forming connections—it takes many, many repetitions for those connections to get strong enough for her to remember.
  • Start to model problem-solving. Talk through the steps as you deal with a problem. For example, if she spills her mashed peas on the floor, calmly say, “Oh-oh, we have a problem. What do we need to do?”. Wait to see if she has an idea and then help her clean up. This gives her the words she will need for problem-solving.
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