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Elizabeth Pantley
Parenting Expert

How to Set Rules for a Toddler?

What’s the best way to establish rules for my toddler?

Rules work best if they’re short, simply stated and consistently followed. First, think about what’s important in your home and family, and be sure to keep in mind what’s developmentally appropriate for toddlers. You might not be a big fan of food throwing, but establishing a “no throwing food” rule in a household with a toddler is simply setting yourself up for failure. Toddlers are bound to toss food now and then! Of course, you can (and should!) work toward a no-throwing-food ideal — just a little later in life. In the meantime, though, focus your efforts on more reachable goals.

Not sure where to start? Make a list of your top concerns and your child’s biggest behavior issues. Then, translate each one into a clear, simple rule. For example, if your kids are too rough with each other and often push, hit, kick or bite, come up with a simple, easy-to-understand rule that will encompass all such behaviors, such as “no hurting.”

Toddlers don’t need — and can’t follow — a lot of rules. It’s best to keep things simple at this age. Follow a consistent daily schedule, model good behavior, redirect your child when he’s headed for trouble and reinforce your simple rules in simple language he can understand (no long lectures about how and why at this point, there will be plenty of time for that when he’s a teenager!).

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