Not in Public: How to Curb Inappropriate Behavior

Problem? What Problem?

There are times when it's best simply to ignore or downplay behavior. That may feel impossible, but you have to learn to pick your battles. Say you've had a hectic morning running errands with your child, and moods are already fragile. Let her continue hissing like a snake if it amuses her. That freedom may mean she'll get into her car seat without a fight.

Bad language is something else that shouldn't be blown out of proportion, but it shouldn't be ignored either. "Downplaying it is always the best route," Dr. Gregory advises, "especially if your child's looking for a reaction." Sure, it's hard not to bat an eyelash when your 2-year-old yells, "Damn!" right in the middle of the library. But calmly responding, "That word's not nice" and putting off an explanation until you're someplace private demonstrates that the shock value (and the attention that comes with it) just isn't there.

Of course, some situations should always be addressed swiftly and directly -- dangerous activities, like rocking a stack of cans in the market, or hurtful ones, like hitting another child. "Even on your worst days, never ignore safety issues or your child's aggressive behavior," Teitelman cautions.

One final piece of advice: Try to look on the bright side. Your toddler's curiosity, impulsiveness, and lack of inhibition are assets -- she's simply testing the waters, finding her place in the world.

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