From Bunny Rugs to Boundaries


Where did that biddable baby in the bunny rug go? He grew into a terrific toddler, that’s what!

And now he wants it all. He wants it now. And he wants it all to himself! Your toddler can be affectionate one minute and obstinate the next. He runs away when you call him and yells when you want peace and quiet. He wants the blue cup, shirt or towel (whatever) when you offer him the yellow one. Now is the time to guide and protect your toddler with a new kind of parenting that includes setting appropriate limits.

Keep expectations realistic. Toddlers don’t understand concepts like hurry, tidy and wait, and taking turns or sharing depend on developmental readiness, not parental demands. Keep teaching, but be patient.

Notice the good things. Toddlers like to please the people they love, and they delight in attention. Comment positively and give hugs when you notice good behaviour and you will get more of it.

Give clear instructions. Telling children what you do want is more effective than telling them what not to do – ‘Hold my hand,’ is better than ‘Don’t run on the road.’ And ‘Use your spoon,’ works better than ‘Don’t eat with your fingers.’ Because they tend to see language in pictures,  little ones only seem to hear the actual request, not the ‘don’t’ that comes first.

Create a diversion.Divert your toddler from potentially harmful or dangerous situations (or things that simply drive you bananas) by giving her something more acceptable to play with. For instance, if she likes to fiddle with the TV remote, try offering her a torch to switch off and on.

Limit choices. Offering choices helps your child to become a decision-maker and think for himself. This helps develop self-esteem and enlists cooperation. Don’t, however, offer open-ended choices and make sure the options you offer suit you! Instead of asking, ‘What do you want to
wear?’ Say, ‘Would you like to wear your red shirt or the blue one?’

Think ahead. It is better to prevent trouble than react angrily later. For instance, put folded washing out of sight if you don’t want it thrown out of the basket or tracked around the house, and prevent precious things being broken by banning ball-throwing inside and keeping the balls outside.

Think of ‘mistakes’ as opportunities to teach your child to make amends. Instead of yelling or muttering under heavy breath as you clean up an accidental mess, try to problem-solve by saying, ‘‘Oops, the milk spilt. If I get the sponge, can you help me wipe it up, please?’


Feel you need tactics to build your toolbox and help you enjoy your terrific toddler?  Check out Pinky’s book Toddler Tactics – this is also available as an audio download .

gentle disciplineguiding toddler behaviourPinky McKaytoddler behaviourtoddler disciplineToddler Tactics
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  • Chloe

    Hi Pinky! I have been reading your posts for over a year now, they are great and really help me with my one and a half year old. I especially love the last point you made here! Classic! I do this on a daily basis – not much progress with the helping on request side, but it is very reassuring to know I’m on the right path with this one. Obviously, ‘no’, yelling and muttering don’t work!
    Thankyou for your expertise and support.
    With love and gratitude Chloe

  • Anna

    Hi Pinky,
    This could not have arrived in my inbox at a more appropriate time. Today I felt like it didn’t matter what I did, my 18 month old was not going to cooperate with me at all. Sometimes a little reminder of such practical measures is all you need to feel like tomorrow will be a much better day, which i am sure it will.
    Thanks, Anna