Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Parent Plus: Challenged by your young child’s behaviors? Read this :

January 11, 2016

Ever wonder if you and your young child speak different languages? If you feel like you’re out of ideas when it comes to getting your child to listen and follow through with tasks, you’re not alone.

It’s common to see frustrated parents struggling to get their child to listen to them. Popular TV programs featuring nannies who swoop in to solve the problem have been devoted to the subject.

At around 18 months old, children can follow one-step commands like “put your cup on the table.” A child should be able to follow three-part commands by age 4 years, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

If you find that your child won’t do as you say, ask yourself if he is getting enough sleep, good nutrition and plenty of exercise. These three things can have a big effect on children’s behavior, according to John Duby, M.D., FAAP, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in Akron, Ohio.

When patients visit Dr. Duby, he suggests the following steps to help young children and their parents understand each other better:

  • Identify what you’d like your child to do.
  • Explain it using short, simple instructions with small words that your child can understand.
  • Follow this routine every time and offer praise when she does what she’s asked.
  • Use consequences every time (time out or removal of privileges) when your child does not follow through.
  • Go back to being positive after correcting behaviors.

It’s also important that parents avoid trying to change more than one undesired behavior at a time, said Dr. Duby. Identify the behavior the child does that is a problem and the alternative behavior you would like to see. Think about where and when the negative behavior happens most often. For example, when you need to leave a park and your child usually throws a tantrum, try giving the child advance warning that you will be leaving soon.

Spanking is not an acceptable or effective form of discipline, according to the AAP. Positive reinforcement is more effective for permanent behavior changes.

Oftentimes, children will struggle when a parent or caregiver is under stress, or if both parents do not support one another in parenting. Talk with your pediatrician if your child’s problems last more than six months, if you suspect a traumatic experience (divorce, job loss or death in the family) may be affecting your child or if you suspect that your child has a language delay (

Find more information on the AAP Healthy Children website,

Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal