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Dealing With Naughty Behavior

Sometimes your toddler is sugar and spice and everything nice. And sometimes, her behavior just plain sours. Here’s how to handle her less-than-stellar conduct.

Naughty: Your toddler sticks her tongue out at someone.

Make it nice: If it’s directed at you, simply ignore it. "Often this behavior is done to get your attention," explains Ari Brown, M.D., co-author of Toddler 411 and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. If she’s sticking her tongue out at another kid or adult, explain, "It hurts someone’s feelings when you do that, so please stop it."

Naughty: Your toddler says a bad word she heard someone else say.

Make it nice: "Again, you can choose to ignore it, as the attention gained by saying that word is likely to make your toddler want to repeat the performance," says Dr. Brown. If that doesn’t work, try, "That is not a nice word. In our family, we don’t use that word." Then simply move on. The more attention your child gets for saying the word, the more likely you’ll hear it again, emphasizes Dr. Brown.

Naughty: Your toddler snatches a toy away from another kid.

Make it nice: Give your child a consequence by telling her, "If you can’t take turns with the toy, you don’t get a turn." Then be sure to enforce this rule. If this is a consistent issue, Dr. Brown suggests using a timer so each child can have the same amount of time with the toy. "When the timer goes off, each child knows it’s the other child’s turn."

Naughty: Your toddler has a public tantrum.

Make it nice: Don’t give in just because you’re in public. "Other parents aren’t looking down on you," notes Dr. Brown. "They’re just happy that it isn’t their kid having the tantrum!" Take your child to a more private place—such as the bathroom or out to your car—for a break so she has a chance to calm down. Then resume whatever you were doing—and hopefully both of you will have a nicer day.

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