This is my second time through toddlerhood, and I’m deperately trying to remember what I did with Olivia that caused her to turn out so well.  So disciplined.  So caring.  So observant.

(Me? Proud? Maybe…)

I’m in the throes of it with Benjamin and I’m telling you, I don’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel.

One thing that I try to do, and it’s not easy, is to expect good behavior.  It’s hard to resist simply shrugging off a tantrum, a blatant disobedience and blaming it on the “terrible two’s”.  They’ll grow out of it, right?

But that’s the equivalent of parental laziness.  We are to train a child in the way they should go.  Not to sit back and watch; see if they get it right themselves.

Part of expecting good behavior from a toddler is to discipline bad behavior. And disciplining that bad behavior every single time you witness it.  Otherwise, you’re telling that child that you expected that bad behavior.  And that you’re okay with it.  Consistency is exhausting.

Another aspect of expecting good behavior from a toddler is to not let the older preschooler do everything for them.  And this is the part I’m struggling with now.  It is so easy to let Olivia clean up Benjamin’s messes.  To have Olivia give Benjamin the toy she’s playing with just because he’s throwing a fit.  She’ll understand.  She’ll do it without arguing.  But what does that teach him?  Does it teach him to be understanding?  to not argue?  to not throw fits? No. It teaches him I expect good behavior from his sister, but not from him.  And he will shrink to my poor expectations.

Finally, the hardest part of expecting good behavior from a toddler is when you are in a public place.  You don’t want to create a scene, so you let things slide.  The problem with this, however, is that the child notices you are letting things slide.  He notices that your expectations have changed.  And he is lowering his standards to meet them.

Create a plan of action for public places so you can keep your cool when your child disobeys in front of strangers.  If spanking is your choice of discipline, find a bathroom.  If time-outs work for you, don’t hesitate to show the other mommas how you roll.  You can even make time-outs work in a cart at a grocery store (provided the seat isn’t occupied by another child.)  If your child flat-out refuses to do something you ask, take his hands and make them obey. (i.e. put shoes on, put toys away, put candy back on the shelf).

Once your child realizes you expect good behavior every time and everywhere, they will start behaving within the boundaries you have set for them.