How To Raise a Well-Mannered Child

The best approach will depend on the location and situation: Is your child in danger, harming someone or simply whining? “If a child is doing something aggressive or dangerous, or breaks an important rule, you must stop the behavior right away. But [your goal is to] do that in a respectful way, even if it’s abrupt,” says Karp. Distraction can be an effective fi rst step. “This works best with younger toddlers, but most respond to being distracted under the right circumstances,” Karp notes. “If your toddler is chasing the cat, rather than saying ‘No!’ bring out a big book of cat pictures or initiate a game with a ball of yarn where your toddler is the cat. Options make your toddler feel respected.” Another useful technique is using “toddler-ese,” says Karp.

It may feel silly, but when you use short phrases, repetition and a toddler-like tone of voice and facial expression, your child may feel so understood that she snaps out of a tantrum, Karp explains.

For instance, if your toddler is wailing about not wanting to take a bath, respond by saying in a similar tone: “I know! I know! You don’t want to, you don’t want to, taking a bath is not, not fun”—and add a little pouting for effect. Ignoring a toddler may be the best bet in less serious situations. “It’s perfect for nuisance behaviors like whining, clinging, screaming or rudeness,” says Karp. “And it’s a good response for mild defiance—like when your child looks right at you and drops food on the fl oor—or a halfhearted bite or swat.”