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Parenting Toddlers

Samantha A.
Special Education Itinerant Teacher
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Join Samantha Allen, MA, for a Q&A all about managing toddler behaviors at home and at school. Samantha is here to answer your questions and help create a more positive family dynamic, empower parents to set the limits they were afraid or unsure if they should set, and more!

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Terrible Twos!


So i am trying to follow the positive discipline philosophy in parenting, and make my discipline have natural consequences (i.e. if throwing a toy, i take the toy away if they won't stop throwing after i ask). But i don't know what to do about straight up defiance. My son who is 29 months and his twin sister have started straight up refusing to do what i ask. Just nope and walking away. Sometimes there is no direct consequence i can impose. What can i do to respond to this? It really pushes my buttons and i am not ok with open defiance.


Hi Catalina,

How would you respond if you saw your kids walking towards the street and didn't follow your verbal redirection to stop walking? Always keep in mind that you are the parent, and you are the one in charge. You may not be able to force your child to follow a direction to complete a non-preferred task but you can certainly not allow access to other things until the direction is followed, and no toddler can tolerate doing absolutely nothing while also not getting attention (positive or negative) for longer than about 30 seconds :) I suggest preventing them from leaving the room and waiting for them to follow your directions. And as always, reinforce positive behaviors! Additionally, I suggest considering which directions they are not following so you can help them with whatever it is that is making them want to escape. Perhaps giving them more choice in how they follow the direction, (ie, Time to clean up the blocks; which shape block do you want to be in charge of cleaning up? Or, Do you want to put away the blocks or the puzzle first?). Also, assess if they are avoiding following certain directions that may be challenging for them so you can help them master the skills involved. Good luck!


Toddler Tantrum after nap time!


Hi Samantha, My son will be two soon. Within the last 4-5 months, when my son awakes from naps he is in horrible moods, is very clingy and screams/cries after waking. Is this normal? He takes 2-3 hour naps, so I don't think it is lack of sleep. Is there something I can do that will help him wake up and not be so upset? He doesn't do this in the morning time. Thanks!


Hi Erin,

Is he waking up naturally or being woken at the end of a nap? And if being woken, how do you wake him? Also, what typically follows immediately after his nap?


Our Q&A is now over.


Thank you, Samantha! Samantha will answer all questions asked today. Through her companies, The Blooming Child and NYC Potty Training, Samantha offers a variety of parenting services from potty training to behavior consultations in the NYC area. Check out more from Samantha at and


My companies actually provide these services all over the world, as much support is given through phone consulting. Thank you for sharing today! I'll finish answering all questions from today shortly.

Samantha Allen

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How do you go about transitioning a 2 year old, who has been cosleeping exclusively since birth, into falling asleep in his own bed, in his own room? Also, he has always fallen asleep with either me or his dad laying with him, which makes things a little more complicated I think.


Crib transition & napping


We're thinking about making the transition from crib to a big boy bed as we're approaching our son's 2nd birthday. However, I'm worried our guy will never sleep with full access to everything in his room, toys, books, etc. He's very busy and easily distracted. We're also struggling with naps recently. Even though he totally needs some sleep, he doesn't want to miss anything and acts out because he's overly tired. Also I should note - he could climb out of the crib if he really wanted to but hasn't yet. He seems happy there at night. Nap time is another story. He has climbed out of the pack n play while at my in-laws. Would love to hear some recommendations for a smooth transition. If there is such a thing with toddlers. :) Thank you!


Hi Kate! If he's able to and will climb out of the crib when he wants to and isn't, there's no reason he shouldn't stay in the bed. Sometimes converting the crib to a toddler bed may be a more seamless transition so that's an option as well. If he does start getting out you can limit access to toys within his reach in his room or a proactive approach would be to allow him to choose 2 items he's allowed to have in bed with him before he gets into bed. When kids do get out of bed, it's best to redirect them back while giving as little attention as possible; you can say 1 time in a neutral tone that it's nap time without making eye contact as you prompt him from behind to walk back to bed. Some kids respond well to a Ready-to-wake clock but I suggest trying without that cue first. I always suggest not making a big deal out of these types of transitions so that kids don't treat the new bed differently than they treated staying in the crib. Keeping kids on a regular routine, having a calmer activity before nap time, and most importantly, using warnings (ie, 3 more minutes of play and then nap time) are definitely key. It's always exciting when we introduce "big boy/girl" steps but acting casual about it usually helps kids to stay calm too. Good luck!




Temper Tantrums


My soon to be 2yo son has recently started saying words like "let go mommy", or "stop it mommy" whenever I try to help him. He has also started to resist getting into his car seat. Usually, he will cry and ultimately fall flat-out on the floor. I have tried counting and sometimes that will calm him down, and when he falls on the floor, I will respond, or walk away if we are at home. I would appreciate some advice on behavior management when situations such as these arise.

Thank you.


Hi Natalie!

It sounds like the falling flat on the floor behavior is functioning to avoid following a non-preferred direction, or at least delay it. Instead of counting or walking away, I suggest prompting him to get in the car seat. Do you know why he doesn't want to get into his car seat at the times he's resistant? Assessing the function or trigger for a behavior is necessary to determine the best way to handle it. One suggestion that I can give without knowing more is to give him an option to get in himself or ask if he needs you to help him. Then if he doesn't get right in himself, you can put him in it. If he complains you can remind him that he had the choice to do it himself and next time he can choose to do that. After you do this once or twice, I'm sure he will start getting in on his own; even if he doesn't want to get into the seat, kids almost always prefer to choose!

If he is telling you to let go or stop doing something that is in an appropriate context for him to be saying that (ie, he wants you to stop tickling him, etc.), then I think it's terrific he's using his words to communicate! If he's saying it in inappropriate contexts, such as to get a toy you are holding/using, I suggest responding as his peers would/should (ie. I'm playing with this can have a turn when I'm finished).

Keep me posted how this goes!


Thanks for the suggestions. As for the car seat, I started giving him the option to get into the seat himself and He was very responsive. Now when I suggest, he hesitates and tries to sit in the regular, open back seat not the car seat. He will say " big boy".....which is what I would say to him after he sat in the car seat on his own. When I try to put him in his car seat after giving him the option to do it himself, the tantrum occurs.

Also, the "let go mommy" is usually if his father is holding him and he doesn't want me to hold him. Usually he is upset. Is this normal? Do I have a hard, strong willed child in the making? Is there any literature you can suggest that I read that might help me understand/prepare for his early strong willed nature? If that is what is brewing from this behavior.


Whining and crying a lot recently


Our 3yr old has always been a bit sensitive but lately she's been whining or crying a lot about everything it seems. Everyone dismisses it as it's just the age but what positive ways can I discourage this behavior?


Hi Paula! Any behavior that you are seeing repeatedly is being reinforced in some way. I suggest prompting her to communicate her needs in an appropriate way instead of allowing the crying or whining to be functional in any way, whether it's to get a tangible item, communicate, get attention, avoid following a direction to complete a non-preferred task. If she's whining and crying because she wants an apple instead of a banana, you can prompt her to ask appropriately for the apple and give it to her when she does and if she's crying/whining to escape/avoid, make sure she still completes the task. And always reinforce positive behavior!


Thank you!


Pulling Hair


How can I get my 18 month old boy to stop pulling his twin sister's hair? He thinks it's funny and most of the time will hold his hands above her head until me or my husband see him and then he'll grab her hair and just laugh - obviously wanting the attention. He really thinks it's funny and doesn't get it hurts her. We know we're not supposed to give him attention after that, so we try to ignore him for a minute and comfort his sister or put him in the corner and not talk to him for one minute, but nothing seems to work. Sometimes he is all riled up, and I know it's coming...other times he just does it out of the blue. Any advice on this?!


Hi Rachna!

I agree this sounds like attention-seeking behavior. I suggest closely supervising them when they are near each other for a few days so that you can prevent and redirect the behavior before it occurs. You can give him lots of attention for, or even use a token board to reward, the absence of the behavior. Keeping the kids engaged, especially doing activities that keep their hands busy doing other things, such as sensory play (ie, water play, finger painting with paint or with shaving cream, doing animal walks involving all fours, etc) will also help. Once this behavior hasn't occurred for a few days and other behaviours have been reinforced, he may move on from what seems to have become a game to him right now. I also suggest taking note of what occurred immediately before he exhibits the hair pulling behavior or attempt to pull her hair in order to figure out the trigger, and then show him appropriate ways to handle those situations. For instance, does it typically happen when he finished playing with one activity before he has selected the next one? Perhaps you can organize their toys so that they're in clear bins or easier to access. Or does your attention to his sister playing immediately precede the hair pulling? If so, you can teach him to invite you to play with him or to join his sister's play. Perhaps he would get less attention for being all done playing with the activity he and his sister are playing with than he gets by being put in a time out, then redirected to stay in the time out, and then eventually when taken out of the time out. Hope this helps!


Thanks - I'll definitely try this out and see if I can get some of the redirection efforts to work!


Language development


My son is 19 months old and he says "bah" for pretty much everything, aside from a few animal noises. His pediatrician said it's nothing to worry about that he's not really saying many words, but what are ways to promote language development? I stay home with him but we do socialize with other kids his age. We also read books and sing lots of songs to help with his language. Any other tips? Thanks!


Hi Lisa!

It's great that he's verbalizing to communicate! Reading picture books and singing songs with hand movements are great ways to promote language development. I suggest continuing to model language without worrying about his articulation for now. Let communication be positive for him to build confidence with language skills and when he's better able to coordinate his lips and tongue as he gets older he will produce more sounds. Right now it sounds like he's mastered "buh" and is enjoying using it to express himself...enjoy and reinforce his language use!




How can I successfully encourage my 16 month old to stop shrieking? He shrieks in excitement and shrieks when you take something away.


I suggest modeling other sounds, words, and gestures he can use to communicate the same excitement, such as clapping, saying or gesturing/signing "More", "No", or "Hooray", and reinforcing him for that communication with praise, attention, tickles, etc. Always try to avoid reinforcing the shrieking with attention in response to that behavior or allowing that behavior to be functional in another way, such as giving him the item he had taken away. Let me know how it goes!


thank you!