How We Got Our Toddler to FINALLY Behave {with FREE reward chart printable!}

How to get your defiant toddler to start behaving

To say we’ve had issues with my son’s behavior would be an understatement.  From ages one to three, we had the screaming, punching, scratching, biting, tantrum-throwing toddler.  We tried pretty much everything under the sun.  As it turned out, the majority of his issues stemmed from his speech delay.  After 8 long months of speech therapy, we all became a lot less frustrated.  Jackson could finally tell us what he wanted, and we could finally understand him.

But, that didn’t solve everything.  Sure, Jackson was having less fits, but he was still having his moments.  And I take full responsibility for them.  You see, I lost control.  I spoiled him.  Every time we went to the store, I let him pick out a prize.  Every time he wanted to watch tv, I turned it on for him.  If he didn’t want the dinner I made, I made him whatever special request he had instead.  Our days had no structure, and we lived by Jackson’s rules.

Recently, we’ve noticed a huge improvement in Jackson’s behavior.  And this isn’t by coincidence.  I had to change my ways, so I could change his ways.  You can do it, too.  Here’s my advice for changing your toddler’s behavior for the better…

Keep ’em Occupied

When our days are a free-for-all, they never end well.  Simply planning daily activities has completely changed Jackson’s behavior.  Now, I’m not saying you need to have a planned daily curriculum.  You can plan things as you go – just keep them busy!  We love to do free printable worksheets.  I just do a Pinterest search for his favorite characters and preschool worksheets (i.e. Paw Patrol Preschool Math Worksheet).  Bonus, they learn a little!

Toddler Behavior: How We Got Our Toddler to FINALLY Behave {with FREE reward chart printable!}

Reward Good toddler Behavior

This might seem like a no-brainer.  But, let’s think about it: When your kid is acting up and you’re looking for an immediate remedy, you give them what they want, right?  I’m sooooo guilty of this.  I’m telling you, we used to come home with a Hot Wheels car every single time we went grocery shopping.  So how did I change this?  I introduced a reward chart.  Together, we discuss something that Jackson really wants.  He then earns stickers each time he does something good to earn up to that big prize.  For instance, he might earn 3 stickers for accompanying me on an errands trip without any tantrums.  Right now, he’s saving up for a Wall-E lego set.

Print My {FREE} Reward Chart here.

limit screen time

Sure, we hear it time and time again… limit your kids’ screen time.  I never truly bought into it, because heck, TVs and iPads make the best babysitters.  But since limiting his screen time, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in Jackson’s behavior.  Even now, I notice on days that I do let him watch TV, he’s cranky and almost possessed by the screen the rest of the day.  As for the iPad, we downloaded one (very popular, overly-advertised, but oh-so-good) educational app that he gets to use in dire situations, i.e. when I need some quiet time to work or take a shower.

Effective Time-outs

In the past, my only form of discipline was the empty threat.  But how can he be afraid of a time-out when he doesn’t even know what one is?  We’ve recently developed an effective routine for every time Jackson misbehaves.  He sits silently by himself while I set my phone’s timer for 2 minutes.  When the 2 minutes are up, he has to tell me what he did wrong to be put in time out, and then apologize to the appropriate person.  This has now become a routine, he knows exactly what to do without me telling him.  I’m hoping it’s teaching him to reflect on his mistakes, and basically not grow up to be a jerk.

I’m so considering buying this stool for TOs.

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26 thoughts on “How We Got Our Toddler to FINALLY Behave {with FREE reward chart printable!}

    1. Thanks, Lindsay. My son is 3.5 and the effective time outs just started taking place. I tell him that he has to sit by himself and cool down. Sometimes using the words “time out” are too harsh, and make him freak out even more. Hope this helps!

    1. Thanks, Vicki. I feel like it is soooo important for our kids to know why exactly they are in trouble. How else are they supposed to know the difference between right and wrong?

    1. That is so true, Beth. Kids are all so different, but once you get your own system down, everything is so much smoother! Thanks for reading! 🙂

    1. Speech issues can be so frustrating, but I’ve come to learn that patience is key. Thanks for reading, Kate! 🙂

    1. Hi Justine! The reward system seems to be working out for us so far, because it’s a long-term goal and not a short-term fix. 🙂

  1. This came at the perfect time! We’re having a difficult time with our 3 (almost 4) year. He’s speech delayed, too (Childhood Apraxia of Speexh) and even though we can communicate so much better now with him going through speech therapy, he’s still frustrated and acts out. I think this reward chart is perfect and will compliment our daily behavioral chart perfectly.

    1. Hi Sarah! I’m so glad I could help. I promise you that the frustration gets better… I’ve learned that patience on my part helps tremendously! Thanks for reading, and good luck with your little guy. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! I like the idea of morning outings. That might help get them down for an afternoon nap, too. I think we need to try that.

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