When Andrew Carnegie—who by the 1920s was one of the richest men in the world—was asked the secret of success, he said that life was like a gold mine: Ignore the dirt…focus on the gold and keep every scrap you find. Soon, you’ll have pockets full of treasure.

Success with a toddler is also like mining gold. If you worry less about the “dirt” (punishing bad behavior) and focus more on the “gold” (praising all his good acts), you’ll soon find you’ve raised a child who shares, cares, and treats people with respect.

During the toddler years you’ll be molding your child’s behavior, encouraging the good and discouraging the bad. The best way to help your toddler behave better is to flash a green light of encouragement every time you see him being good.

Here are 5 ways to flash a green light on your toddler’s good behavior:

  1. Use Time-Ins

Chances are you’ve heard of time-outs, where you make a misbehaving child sit alone. Time-ins are the opposite. Time-ins are when parents or caregivers give a well-behaving child tiny bits of encouragement. Time-ins might take the form of giving a child attention, praise, play, gossip, little rewards, hand checks, or star charts.

  1. Build Confidence

As hard as it is to raise a toddler, it’s really tough to be a toddler. Toddlers lose all day long. They’re weaker, slower, shorter, less verbal, and clumsier than just about everyone they know. While you can’t protect your child from all the defeats they’ll face, you can help your little one become more confident. And the more your child knows you believe in him, the more he’ll believe in himself! Building confidence begins with listening and speaking to your toddler with respect.You can also send your toddler the message that you value him by offering options.Another way to build up your tot? Play the “boob” (meaning, pretend to be a klutz as you play with your kid). It makes them laugh, feel clever, and strong, and makes them want to be more cooperative.

  1. Teach Patience

Teaching patience is another parenting skill that’s worth its weight in gold. Patient toddlers are less impulsive, more reasonable, and slower to anger when things don’t go their way. And patience is like a muscle…it gets stronger with exercise! One way to build your child’s self-control is to use patience-stretching, in which you strategically delay giving your child what they want and praise them for waiting. Magic breathing is another tactic that teaches patience. With a few slooow breaths, impulsive toddlers can learn to turn their motor off and regain a sense of peace.

  1. Create Daily Routines

Simple toddler routines help kids feel smart, secure, and start to establish a sense of time. You may establish routines around meals, naps, or other frequent events (like calls with Grandma and Grandpa). One routine I love is Bedtime Sweet Talk to help toddlers transition from a tiring day to…Slumberland.

  1. Plant Seeds of Kindness

Teach manners and character through the “side door” of your child’s mind. Experienced parents know all too well that toddlers tend to tune out our explanations or sermons (messages delivered through the “front door” of a child’s mind), but pay sharp attention to what they see us do or overhear us say (aka “side door” messages). These side-door lessons—which can be delivered through storytelling, role-playing, and catching others being good—allow us to sneak into children’s minds and plant seeds of good character without our little ones feeling like they’re being lectured to.

Now that you’re becoming an expert at flashing a green light to signal all-systems-GO to good behavior, you should be well on your way to having fewer problems.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.