Reversing Negative Qualities in a Toddler

The other day, I was quite surprised when my 22-month old daughter raised her palm in the way you would when about to hit something.  She slammed her palm down onto a chair and said, “No Mommy!”  She did that in response to me refusing to give her something she had asked for.  Besides surprise, guilt almost immediately and rightly surfaced as I realized what really happened…what I had done.

We all know that children are the best imitators there are.  It’;s their natural instinct to copy.  That’;s how they learn and adjust to their ever-changing surroundings.  I admit that I’;m as much a toddler just as she is when it comes to motherhood.  I’;ve read the tricks and trades and all the fads.  In reality, nothing prepares you for what you’;ve never experienced before.  My beau and I try our best in keeping our family life centered on good and steady morals and strong values, but as hard as we try, we still make the most obvious mistakes.

As hard as it is to admit, I have yelled at my daughter out of sheer frustration that majority of the time was not even caused by her. She has also seen me smack something out of the same type of frustration–the couch, the table, my forehead.  I didn’;t control my own emotions.  Unfortunately, she has copied my actions and has done so dramatically, hitting everything in her way when she is upset.  Even my own hands.

So as a resolve, I’;ve decided I needed to up the ante a bit and be a little bit more aggressive in emphasizing positive qualities in our home instead of always reacting poorly towards negative situations.  When toddlers develop negative qualities, they do so as if they’;re developing habits.  They master actions through repetition and gain.  What will a toddler get out of throwing tantrums or hitting?  More than likely, they aren’;t even aware of the negative impact of such actions; they’;re merely doing what they know.

Here I list some negative qualities and their suggested positive counterparts.  Everything has an opposite.  If you already find your toddler doing some of the less likable things below, try to reverse the action by promoting and practicing their positive counterparts.  

Negative: I want…I want…I want…
Positive: Please, thank you, and redirection

Yes.  Kids are definitely sponges.  There really is no limit to how much they can learn at such a young age.  My daughter sings songs from shows and commercials and repeats many things she hears.  It wouldn’;t hurt to reiterate the words “please” and “thank you,” especially when she’;s asking for something.  If she wants something that I don’;t want to give to her at the moment, I simply redirect her attention to something else entirely–maybe a toy she can play with or a song she likes to hear.  


Negative: Repeating inappropriate words

Positive: Repeating acceptable words

This is simple enough.  It really boils down to the kid’;s vocabulary.  If all he hears are negative words, that will be all he’;ll say.  Words that are considered inappropriate are really up to you.  We try not to say “no” too much at our house because sure enough, our daughter repeats it every chance she gets.  She also says “stop it” from time to time whenever she feels it’;s the right time to say it, which is never…really.  Instead of saying “no,” we try to say, “What you did was not nice.”  It’;s better to let kids know the particular action that is not acceptable.


Negative: Endless screaming

Positive: Quiet time or hushing

When kids are able to grasp the concept of screaming for attention, it means they can also understand what it means to be quiet.  It helps to teach kids early on how to hush by placing the index finger to the lips while saying “shhh.”  This was a bit harder to implement for us since our daughter would sometimes scream when she’;s overly excited.  I had to teach her that hushing is fun and appropriate, and she slowly understood the concept.  She even initializes hushing now when she sees her baby brother sleeping.


Negative: Slapping or hitting

Positive: Keeping hands to self

This one goes along with teaching kids their body parts.  It’;s a fun thing to do.  Learn where the eyes are, the ears, the nose, the hands.  It’;s easy to incorporate the idea that hands should be kept close to your body and not used to slap or hit.  It’;s easy for kids to get frustrated, and they express frustration just as adults do.  It’;s easy to forget that they have the same emotions and feelings as adults do.  It’;s important to teach them how to express negative feelings appropriately.

Negative: The ultimate tantrum
Positive: “Feet are for walking; floors are for feet.”

They say kids throw tantrums to test how far they can push adults.  In my experience, I believe kids throw tantrums in expression of their frustration.  Tantrums can range from stomping excessively, screaming, banging objects (or body parts), and falling to the floor.  Teaching kids positive qualities can help ease tantrums, maybe even eliminate them.  Teach kids the idea that their feet are meant to be grounded to the floor and not their bodies. 

I’;m hoping these suggestions will help you in your parenting journey.  If you find yourself struggling with these negative qualities as an adult, feel free to take the positives as they apply.