Promoting positive behaviour in strong-minded toddlers

Promoting Positive Behaviour in toddlers and young children 

  1. Be aware that challenging behaviour is perfectly normal and healthy in your child during the second year.
  2. Try to understand the reason for the behaviour, namely, that your child is probably “testing the limits” in her search for her own individuality and independence.
  3. Be aware that if your only technique for dealing with negative behaviour is “head-on” confrontation, you are actually offering yourself to the child as a role model for more negative behaviour.
  4. Directing your child’s atten­tion to some positive activity will be more effective than scolding.
  5. Realise the consequences of either extreme. Always giving in will create a spoiled child, while always putting your toddler down will result in a poor self-concept – and a crushed ego.
  6. Giving-in occasionally to your child does not mean giving up your control. Sometimes it’s a responsible choice in the interest of the self-concept and sense of individuality of your child.
  7. Parents who remain calm but firm are not only best for the child but it is also in the best interest of the parent’s own mental well-being.

Promoting Positive Behaviour – Ages and Stages

Infant – under 1 year

Normal behaviour:- cries to make needs known, gets into everything. Learns by touch, taste, smell, sight and sound.

What parents can do:- Let your baby learn to self-soothe. Comforting your baby when he is sick, hurt or upset – rather than ignoring or brushing off the feeling – will help him learn how to do this. Say ‘no’ when your baby does something you don’t want him to, like biting you. Don’t use techniques such as time-out or consequences.

Young toddler 1-2 years

Normal behaviour:- Is starting to test limits as she explores her independence. May be fearful when separating from you. Will learn to say ‘no’. Curious and wants to explore. Too young to remember rules.

What parents can do:- Create a safe environment that your child can explore. Give your child attention when she is being good. Use redirection, with a brief explanation (‘No – hot’)

Older toddler 2 – 3 years

Normal behaviour:- Is becoming more independent. Becomes frustrated when you set limits, and will show it. Becomes very possessive, doesn’t understand the concept of “mine” versus “someone else’s”. Is easily distracted.

What parents can do:- Some frustration is good because it helps your child to start to learn how to problem-solve. But, remember, there are situations your child won’t be able to handle. Give choices when you can. Explain briefly why a behaviour is unacceptable.

Preschooler 3 – 5 years

Normal behaviour:- Should be able to accept better limits, but won’t always make good decisions. Tries to please and wants to feel important. Can follow simple instructions. Can make choices. Asks a lot of questions. Independent. Tries to tell other children what to do. May tell on others.

What parents can do:- Need to provide clear and consistent rules. Set an example through your own actions. Small and appropriate consequences also work. Approval and praise will encourage your child to do good things. Long lectures do not work.

©Lifestart Foundation 2018

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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