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Disobedience In Toddlers

by Eliza Martinez, studioD

Part of life with a toddler is dealing with disobedience. Toddlers don't always do what they are told and often do things they aren't supposed to. While this is a normal part of your little one's development, you don't want him to get the idea that it's acceptable to misbehave. Teaching him with appropriate discipline techniques helps him learn desired behaviors, even if he doesn't always make the right choice.


Sometimes your toddler isn't being disobedient on purpose, though there are plenty of times when he probably is. Toddlers want to assert their independence, so they may refuse to eat a favorite food, put on their shoes or go to bed -- simply because they can. Other times, toddlers misbehave because they want your attention, are hungry or are tired. In some cases, disobedience is due to their inability to communicate their needs and wants, notes MayoClinic.com. Whatever the reason, you can help your toddler improve his behavior, though he's likely to slip up from time to time.

Consistent Consequences

Consistent consequences for disobedience help your toddler learn acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. The consequence must be the same each time, or he'll assume that he'll be able to get away with it sometimes. For example, if your toddler throws food at the dinner table, remove his plate immediately each time and remind him that throwing food isn't allowed. If he hits his sister, take him to his room to play alone. It won't be long before he understands that he won't be able to play with his sister if he mistreats her.


Time-out is an effective punishment for a toddler because it removes him from the situation that has led to disobedience and it allows him a chance to pull himself together. Time-outs should be age-appropriate, though, or they might backfire on you. MayoClinic.com recommends one minute for each year of age. For example, a 2-year-old should sit in time-out for two minutes. Set the timer so your child knows when he can get up, but make sure he is aware of why he's sitting in time-out, then redirect him to a new activity when time is up.

Behavior Modeling

You can't expect your toddler to refrain from using curse words or being nice to the family dog if you don't lead by example. Toddlers learn by watching and imitating you and the other people he spends time with. If you call the dog a name because she chewed your favorite shoes, chances are your toddler will do the same next time the dog chews up one of his toys. It's very difficult to get your little one to obey you if you're asking him to do things you don't do. Modeling good behavior increases the likelihood that your toddler will follow suit.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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