"Parents of toddlers should brace themselves for some awkward moments," advises Beth Teitelman, director of the parenting center at the 92nd Street Y, in New York City. Why? Children this age are beginning to express ideas and revel in their physical abilities -- but haven't yet realized that some things aren't appropriate to say or do in public.
That's where Mom and Dad need to step in, especially if their child's actions could hurt others' feelings or even injure someone physically. Setting boundaries can be tricky, particularly for a person whose energy and curiosity seem to defy limits. But it can be done -- effectively and lovingly.
Keep Your Cool
It's hard to stay calm when your child acts inappropriately, but try to remember that she probably means no harm. A toddler can't yet gauge the responses to her actions -- she doesn't know that picking her nose at Grandma's birthday dinner is impolite.
Don't view the behavior as a reflection of poor parenting skills, and try to ignore any glares from other adults (inevitable if your child is, say, sampling grapes at the grocery store). "Your obligation is to your child, not to bystanders," Teitelman says.
Concentrate on ways to correct the problem -- gently and without blame. "Punishment can leave 2-year-olds feeling crushed," explains Douglas Gregory, M.D., a pediatrician in Suffolk, Virginia. "They'll respond with fear or aggression." Instead, Teitelman suggests, weigh your other options: "Instruct, distract, and ignore."